I find that going beyond just the term and its definition helps increase retention, so I have dumped the basic index cards as vocabulary flashcards.
Instead, students can create a folding card that helps them to practice and review the meaning behind the word through memory triggers - root words, images, and explanations in their own words.
Often, once students hear a root word, there is a huge "AHA" moment. I like to compare the commutative property to commuting (moving back and forth).
I ask students to give me as many words as they can that begin with "poly" when I teach polygons, polyhedra, or polynomials. Then we talk about how "polytheism" is about many gods, "polygamy" is many wives, and "polychromatic" means many colors.
These discussions and comparisons help the kids make connections that will lead them into a definition that they understand and remember.
Creating the Cards:
- Start with a 5 inch x 5 inch square of paper (these can be pre-cut or students can make two out of a single sheet of paper as they go.
- Fold the paper into fourths so you can see four squares.
- Write the vocabulary word in one quadrant and its definition in another. For the remaining two flaps, choose two of the following three options: root word, image/picture, and explanation in your own words. (Your choices may vary depending on the word.)
- Fold each corner into the center to hide each section of written work that you just did.
- Label the triangular flaps to identify the type of information that is hiding under each flap.
Tips for Students:
- Do a google search for the vocabulary term + "etymology." This will give you some insight into the root words or origination of the vocabulary word, if it's history is known. The history of the terms can be really interesting!
- If the vocabulary term does have a good root word in it, think of some other words that you already know that contain the same root. This will help you make connections and remember what that root means and how it applies in each word.
- When you cannot identify a clear root word in a term, just use the word, the definition, a picture, and an explanation in your own words to complete the four flaps.
- If you are studying using the folding cards, be sure to practice both ways (once starting with the term, and once starting with the definition). Unfold one flap if you need a hint. You can always unfold another for a second hint if you need to. Then try to identify the word (if you started with the definition) or try to say the definition (if you started with the word). Mix it up and review all the pieces of information under each flap during your full review session!
Some Sample Roots & Etymologies:
Study Skills Beyond Vocabulary Terms
If you want to go beyond vocabulary, check out this study skills pack for math class that guides students through study strategies like mind maps, these vocabulary folding cards, and tricks for memorizing formulas.