High School Biology : Unit #1 - 1) Intro to Science ("Investigations by Design") : Lesson #7

LGLS Vocabulary Activity

Objective: Students will use the List-Group-Label-Summarize (LGLS) strategy to increase their proficiency in academic vocabulary pertaining to scientific inquiry.
Standards: SP3 SP8
Subject(s): Science
60 minutes
1 Learner Goals - 0 minutes

Note: I recommend that you first check out this resource in order to get the most out of this lesson!

In high school I took several drafting classes and, for a while, I had hoped to become an architect. With respect to planning instruction and teaching, I feel that I can still live out the detailed approach to building something intricate and complex even though the product is a lesson rather than a certain "built environment".

The lesson-planning template that I uploaded to this section is a comprehensive overview of how I approach lesson planning. This template includes the "Big Three" aspects of the NGSS standards: Disciplinary Core Ideas, Crosscutting Concepts, and Science Practices. Of course, there are many other worthy learning goals, skills, instructional strategies, and assessments that can be integrated into a class session. I don't feel compelled to check every box but, rather, use it as a guide to consider various options and tailor the lesson in light of these.

With regard to this particular lesson, I introduce a strategy that will be used regularly throughout the school term. Students will use the List-Group-Label-Summarize (LGLS) strategy to increase their proficiency in academic vocabulary pertaining to scientific inquiry. In addition to learning vocabulary, students will look for patterns, practice writing skills, think metacognitively (Plus-Check-Minus self-assessment) and communicate information.

I hope you get some value from my work! Please find the more intricate details of this lesson plan there.

2 Anticipatory Set ("Hook") - 5 minutes

Students struggle quite often from foreign or challenging vocabulary,  especially so in science. Therefore, proficiency ("access to the content") is of paramount importance in my class. We use a variety of strategies to get at the meaning of science terminology, oftentimes using the LGLS approach. When students are first exposed to new vocabulary, I like to gauge their initial understanding of it.

I direct students to mark each term (at the margin of their handout) according to this framework:

Plus sign= student has previously learned the term and can reasonably define or describe it;

Check mark= student has some familiarity with it but can only provide a vague understanding (connotation) of it;

Minus mark= student has never before seen this word. 

This does two things: 1) when completed, it gives a quick visual to the ratio of new vocabulary to learn and those words mastered (to varying degrees) and 2) it alerts students to particular terms to pay better attention to.

3 Instructional Input/Student Activities - 45 minutes

Direct students to follow directions accordingly on the handout provided.

1. List (L): In this activity, the vocabulary terms are already given. Alternatively, you might use this strategy in conjunction with a reading passage and have students create lists on their own which would then be used to complete the subsequent "G-L-S" steps. 

2. Group (G): One enhancement to this activity would be for each student group to list all vocabulary on index cards (one term per card) to begin with. This favors kinesthetic learners by permitting them to physically sort the vocabulary cards into piles or groups and fosters discussion of divergent points-of-view as the grouping process occurs. As I have done this, I circulate around and listen to discussions and this method seems to engage student thinking on a deeper level. 

To do this well, students must look for similarities and differences among the vocabulary. One strategy to employ is have students look up each term from a vetted source (Dictionary Reference or Biology-online). I used a dictionary to clarify textual meanings a lot growing up and I believe that this is a waning practice that I just can't let go extinct if I have any say in the matter! 

In this way they are to see patterns emerge and form groups of like meaning. For example, some terms relate to the variables used to plan and conduct an experiment (e.g. data, controlled experiment, prediction) whereas others might relate to the characteristics that mark good science practice (e.g. honesty, skeptical, accuracy).

I require at least three groups to be completed however four or five could be accomplished. Obviously, a greater number of groups requires more flexible thinking. 

3. Label (L): Now that each group has been created, students are to then label (using descriptive language) a heading that fully describes all nested terms.

4. Summarize (S): Taken together, the student will now take the big picture approach to all terms and describe each generally and how all groups relate to one another. There will likely be some students who may want to rush through this but I require students to show me their work when they turn in the assignment. I will especially critique this section for depth of thought. In particular, I want students to clearly explain the key traits of each subgroup they formed and how, taken as a whole, all groups relate to the theme of this set of vocabulary.

4 Closure: What did we learn? Where do we go from here? - 5 minutes

Return to the list of vocabulary (Step #1). Students will (again) self-evaluate their comprehension of the twenty terms now that they have completed the LGLS process. This second self-evaluation ought to yield much better results!

How it went...
Developing a Conceptual Understanding

The goal for this activity was to develop a deeper understanding of core academic vocabulary related to scientific inquiry. I most firmly believe that academic language is one of the most challenging barriers that too often limits students of all categories (ELL, SE, and others) from accessing the content of a discipline. I'd go so far as to say that this is no more true than in science (except for world languages, for obvious reasons).

That being said, as I examined the vocabulary assignments produced by Students 1 and 2, it is clear that they were able to list, group, and label the twenty assigned words into three or more  categories. The category labels accurately depicted the unifying theme of the chosen vocabulary. These categories generally broke down into how science is done, proofing, and the types of variables found in a controlled experiment.

Of the two student samples, it is clear that student #1 was more articulate in explaining how he selected his categories but both demonstrated their ability to distinguish the main meanings of the target vocabulary. Taken as a starting foundation, these students have familiarity with the vocabulary that I will use frequently in class which increases student access to the often complex concepts that cannot be understood without a solid base of language.