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Wrestling with the vocabulary...

Wrestling with the vocabulary... iconWrestling with the vocabulary...title

To some science seems to have a language of its own. To help you "work smarter" at developing your science vocabulary try "dissecting" words into their prefixes, roots and suffixes. Consider the word "photosynthesis". Photo- or phot- is a prefix the comes from the Greek language meaning light, and the root word -synthesis, also from the Greek for -syntithenai, meaning to put together. Photo-synthesis therefore means "light - to put together". The natural definition is clearest if you consider the word by translating it "backwards" resulting in "to put together from light".

Why go to the trouble to develop your vocabulary this way? Well after learning a couple standard prefixes, root words and suffixes, you can start "backwards" translating many unfamiliar words as you read them for the first time, increasing your reading comprehension, understanding of the main idea, shortening the amount of time you have to poor into extra studying.

Want to find what the prefixes, roots and suffixes mean, visit: Merriam-Webster On-line "Language Center" or and use their dictionary or one of the following "Prefix Root & Suffix" on-line dictionary lists... You can always start here at Wikipedia's "List of medical roots, suffixes and prefixes". There are many online tools that you can find to help you with your vocabulary development.
“The 14 Prefixes that Make All the Difference”

“The 14 Prefixes that Make All the Difference” icon“The 14 Prefixes that Make All the Difference”title

According to Richard E. Hodges of the University of Puget Sound in a booklet titled: Improving Spelling and Vocabulary in the Secondary School, published by the ERIC Clearinghouse on Reading and Communication Skills and the National Council of Teachers of English, 1982; page 30: "If you were to examine the 20,000 most used English words, you would find that about 5,000 of them contain prefixes and that 82 percent (about 4,100) of those words use one of only fourteen different prefixes out of all the available prefixes in the language."

He then goes on to list the following:

ab- (away from)
be- (on all sides, overly)
de- (reversal, undoing, downward)
dis-, dif- (not, reversal)
ex- (out of, former)
pre- (before)
re- (again, restore)
un- (do the opposite of)
ad- (to, toward)
com-, con-, co- (with, together)
en-, em- (in, into, to cover or contain)
in- (into, not)
pro- (in favor of, before)
sub- (under, beneath)

Mnemonic Devices

Mnemonic Devices iconMnemonic Devicestitle

Mnemonic devices should probably not be used for memorizing concepts because they are designed to sidestep the deep meaning of a given material. For this reason, these techniques are excellent for remembering lists and necessary facts.

Repetition and association are two essential components to any memory technique.

Repetition: Mnemonic devices demand active participation and a constant repetition of the material to be memorized. This repetition is not passively repeating words, but instead it is meaningful practice which involves familiarizing yourself with a list, trying to memorize it, duplicating it, and then checking it yourself. This process acts as a holding pattern while links are found to retain the information permanently.

Association: New knowledge is more effectively stored in the long term memory when it is associated with anything that is familiar. Mnemonic focus on association and with a little creativity, your associations will be so bizarre that you can't help but remember them.

SOME MNEMONIC DEVICES: There are many mnemonic devices from which to choose; some very simple, and some very complex. Here are some examples of each:

1. Rhyme: If you think about it, you can probably remember rhymes from clear back in grade school: nursery rhymes, spelling rhymes etc. Example: Thirty days has September, April, June, and November, all the rest have thirty one except February.

2. Sentence: When the list must be memorized in order, make a sentence out of the initial letters of the words you are trying to memorize. Example: if you want to learn the different types of tastes (Bitter, Sour, Salty, Sweet) you might use the sentence mnemonic Bill Savors Sour Sweets.

3. Acronym: Make a word using the first letter from each word that needs to be remembered. This one only works when the list is fairly short and when the order of the words      can be shifted. Example: an acronym mnemonic for remembering this list in order is: "King Phillip called out for good soup". Another is "Kings play chess on fat green stools".

4. Grouping: When you have a lot of material to be memorized, break it down into small subgroups. These subgroups should be divided into meaningful parts. If the groups are complete ideas, you'll remember them better. Example: grouping minerals by metals or stones.

(Adapted from
Having a hard time with reading your textbook?

Having a hard time with reading your textbook? iconHaving a hard time with reading your textbook?title

Before you begin to read, you need to check your PBID !

Take a minute to identify the Purpose of the reading. Why are you reading that textbook? What do you hope to gain from this reading session? Some common reasons that you need to read a text are:

  • Read the chapter for background information so that you will understand the next class lecture.
  • Read the chapter for information so that you will understand the lecture that you already heard and can add information to class notes.
  • Read the chapter and memorize details, such as definitions or sequences.
  • Read the chapter and be able to discuss causes and effects of different.
  • Read a text to understand principles and processes.
  • Your purpose for reading often goes hand in hand with the type of testing in the class and the type of homework or papers that you have to complete.

Your reading comprehension is strongly affected by your Background knowledge. What do you already know about the subject? Skim the chapter headings, pictures, charts, graphs, and diagrams. Read the summary, and think about what you know about this subject.

Students often complain that they don't like to read the text because it is not Interesting. In many cases this is a true statement, but it doesn't remove the fact that in many classes if you do not read the text, you will not pass the class. If you avoid the text because of lack of interest, you need to take some action to make the reading bearable.

  • Create interest by sharing the reading with a study partner.
  • Form a study group and divide up the chapter among each student in the group. Make each student responsible for reading and teaching the concepts from their section to the other members of the group. Be aware that the part of the chapter you learn the best will be the part that you teach the others.
  • Do something with the information as you read the text. Write notes, form lists, draw picture lists, develop a mnemonic.
  • Create a picture in your mind of the information.
  • Write an outline or try a nonlinear approach such as a mind or concept map.
  • Break the reading into small time units. Concentrate on the reading for twenty minutes, and then take a small break, then twenty minutes more of focused reading.
  • Reward yourself for reading and studying material that is not interesting to you.
  • Talk to the instructor and ask questions about the subject matter. Ask them how they would advise you to read and comprehend the text. The instructor may say something to spark your interest.
  • Create questions before you read, pretend they are real test questions, and you must know the answers to pass the class.
The Difficulty of the reading material can encourage or discourage a student from studying the text. Sometimes the format of the text is more difficult that the actual course material. You have little control over the choice of the text, but you do have options if the reading is difficult.

  • Read another text that is on the same subject, but is written on a similar level.
  • You can check ask your instructor or go to the out textbooks library to find another text.
  • Go back and think about your Purpose, Background and Interest. One of these factors may be making the reading difficult.
  • Get a tutor for the class so that the difficult parts can be explained to help you understand the information.

(Adapted from )
How to do a “Mind Map” Concepts or Big Ideas

How to do a “Mind Map” Concepts or Big Ideas iconHow to do a “Mind Map” Concepts or Big Ideastitle

Here are some hints on how to construct a mind map..

How to do a Mind Map Mind mapping (or concept mapping) involves writing down a central idea and thinking up new and related ideas which radiate out from the center. By focusing on key ideas written down in your own words, and then looking for branches out and connections between the ideas, you are mapping knowledge in a manner which will help you understand and remember new information.

Look for relationships Use lines, colors, arrows, branches or some other way of showing connections between the ideas generated on your mind map. These relationships may be important in you understanding new information or in constructing a structured essay plan. By personalizing the map with your own symbols and designs you will be constructing visual and meaningful relationships between ideas which will assist in your recall and understanding.

Draw quickly on unlined paper without pausing, judging or editing All of these things promote linear thinking and the idea of mind mapping is to think creatively and in a non-linear manner. There will be plenty of time for modifying the information later on but at this stage it is important to get every possibility into the mind map. Sometimes it is one of those obscure possibilities that may become the key to your knowledge of a topic.

Use capitals The idea of using capitals is to encourage you to get down only the key points. Capitals are also easier to read in a diagram. You may, however, wish to write down some explanatory notes in lower case. Some students do this when they revisit the mind map at a later date while others write in such things as assessment criteria in this way.

Put main idea in the center Most students find it useful to turn their page on the side and do a mind map in "landscape" style. With the main idea or topic in the middle of the page this gives the maximum space for other ideas to radiate out from the center.

Leave lots of space Some of the most useful mind maps are those which are added to over a period of time. After the initial drawing of the mind map you may wish to highlight things, add information or add questions for the duration of a subject right up until exam time. For this reason it is a good idea to leave lots of space.

To view a good example of a science related mind or concept map for see "Cell Stuff"

Looking for a free software app that you can use to create "Mind Maps"? Check out CMAP Tools.
The use of Concept or Mind Maps in the Teaching & Learning Process

The use of Concept or Mind Maps in the Teaching & Learning Process iconThe use of Concept or Mind Maps in the Teaching & Learning Processtitle

A. Introduction

The use of concept maps as a teaching strategy was first developed by J. D. Novak of Cornell University in the early 1980's. It was derived from Ausubel's learning theory which places central emphasis on the influence of students' prior knowledge on subsequent meaningful learning. According to Ausubel, "the most important single factor influencing learning is what the learner already knows. Thus meaningful learning results when a person consciously and explicitly ties new knowledge to relevant concepts they already possess. Ausubel suggests that when meaningful learning occurs, it produces a series of changes within our entire cognitive structure, modifying existing concepts and forming new linkages between concepts. This is why meaningful learning is lasting and powerful whereas rote learning is easily forgotten and not easily applied in new learning or problem solving situations which the present science curricula so advocate.The Concept map is a device for representing the conceptual structure of a subject discipline in a two dimensional form which is analogous to a road map. A concept, as defined by Novak, is regularity in objects or events designated by a specific label. Concept maps are diagrammatic representations which show meaningful relationships between concepts in the form of propositions. Propositions are two or more concept labels linked by words which provide information on relationships or describing connections between concepts.A concept map can be considered as somewhat similar to a spider chart, an organization chart or a flow diagram. The most useful form of a concept map for teaching and learning is one arranged in a hierarchical organization which the more general and more inclusive concepts at the top of the map and the more concrete and specific ones at the bottom.

In the teaching and learning of Biology (or any science subject), concepts do not exist in isolation. Each concept depends on its relationships to many others for meaning. A concept map depicts hierarchy and relationships among concepts. It demands clarity of meaning and integration of crucial details. The concept map construction process requires one to think in multiple directions and to switch back and forth between different levels of abstraction. In attempting to identify the key and associated concepts of a particular topic or sub-topic, one will usually acquire a deeper understanding of the topic and clarification of any prior misconceptions.One big advantage of using concept maps is that it provides a visual image of the concepts under study in a tangible form which can be focused very easily. They can be readily revised any time when necessary. During the formulation process it consolidates a concrete and precise understanding of the meanings and inter-relation s of concepts. Thus it makes learning an active process, not a passive one. In presenting concepts to students, teachers should never ask students to memorize prepared concept maps. This could merely promote rote learning and so defeat the purpose of encouraging active meaningful learning on that part of the learner.

B. Use of concept maps in teaching

1. Teaching a topic In constructing concept maps, difficult concepts can be clarified and can be arranged in a systematic order. Using concept maps in teaching helps teachers to be more aware of the key concepts and relationship among them. This helps teachers to convey a clear general picture of the topics and their relationships to their students. In this way, it is less likely to miss and misinterpret any important concepts.
2. Reinforce understanding Using concept maps can reinforce students' understanding and learning. This enables visualization of key concepts and summarizes their relationship.
3. Check learning and identify misconception The use of concept maps can also assist teachers in evaluating the process of teaching. They can assess the students' achievement by identifying misconception and missing concepts.
4. Evaluation Students' achievement can be tested or examined by concept mapping.

C. Steps in constructing concept maps
1. Select and focus on a theme and then identify related key words or phrases.
2. Rank the concepts (key words) from the most abstract and inclusive to the most concrete and specific.
3. Cluster concepts that function at similar level of abstraction and those that interrelate closely.
4. Arrange concepts in to a diagrammatic representation.
5. Link concepts with linking lines and label each line with a proposition.
Source: Curriculum guide, CDC All rights reserved.

(Adapted from
How to Keep a Good Science Notebook

How to Keep a Good Science Notebook iconHow to Keep a Good Science Notebooktitle

Keeping a good record of your work in science is as important as anything else you do. Developing the habit of keeping a good notebook is the same as developing any other habit. As you practice doing the job the right way you will improve in your skill and it will be easier and less burdensome for you. Before long you will be doing your work automatically.The most important thing to remember is that the notebook you keep should be YOU. That is, it should be a complete record of everything you have done in connection with your science work. It should include the results of your work in class, your reading, experiments and projects performed, observations made and all drawings and diagrams which illustrate your work.General Rules of Keeping a Notebook

1. Use one 3-ring notebook for your science work.
2. Put all your class notes, assignments, notes from reading and other material in this notebook. Use sectional dividers.
3. Date each page and handout. Write neatly and legibly so that you can read what you have written. Label all drawings and diagrams so that they mean something to you long after you have made them.
4. Get in the habit of writing complete sentences for all you notes. Only then will the notes mean something to you when you read them later. Make sure that your sentences express complete thoughts. (Use different color inks to help you distinguish materials.)
5. Begin each new topic on a new page. Leave spaces between topics so that new materials can be added if you want to.
6. In writing your notes try to put all ideas in your own words. If you copy materials from books put quotations marks in the proper place. This is the way all scientists work.
7. When you have finished a term's work prepare an index for the notebook. Keep all your notebooks, you may need them for review for high school.


(Adapted from )