AP Psychology Vocabulary

9:34 AM Sarah Koves 1 Comments

AP Psychology is vocabulary heavy.  If the students can learn the vocabulary, they can be fairly successful on the exam.   I have been teaching this class for the last three years, and I think this past year I finally found a way to make vocabulary work for this class.

Each unit the students get a vocabulary list and these lists are pretty long due to the content.  I check their list for completeness of definitions.  There is also a matching quiz towards the end of each unit.  Students were struggling with the vocabulary and with working on it a little bit at a time; they wanted to simply cram the night before, and this was causing them to be unsuccessful, so I needed a way to force them into breaking it down.

I actually borrowed much of this from a past coworker, Emily, who did this with her English classes.

Here is what I came up with:

I set my quiz date.  I then divide the list of terms by the number of days; it usually worked out to 3-6 words a day for the unit because the number of terms was proportional to the length of the unit.  The first day I hand out the vocabulary list and share the daily division of the list.

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The next day the students have to know the first day's words (3-6 terms).  These 3-6 terms and definitions go into my container.  I then give them 1/4 sheets of paper (I cut up stuff from the recycle box) and draw three terms.  I read only the definition; they write the term.

The next day we leave the first set of terms in the container and add the next group.  This means that sometimes they get the same terms several times in the unit, which they think is funny.

I total these daily quizzes up over the unit for one final daily vocabulary grade.  This then goes in the gradebook and can be compared to the final vocabulary quiz for growth.

I have stored each unit's terms in a ziplock bag labeled with the unit.  This way I am not recreating these each year.  Here is the bag for the biology unit.

This year I had 91% of my students pass the AP Psychology exam and most of those were 4s and 5s.  This was the first year that I used this vocabulary method, and I only started it partway through the year.

I would say it was successful.

I am making one small change to this for next year.  For the first three units we will be doing a specific vocabulary method: list and define; flashcards; is/isn't.  Then, after the students have tried all three methods, I will let them choose for the rest of the year.  This way they can hopefully find what works for them.  They have to do something, but I am not as concerned as to what that something is.

How do you teach vocabulary?

Here are some other engaging psychology activities.

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