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What Makes a Good Resource: Knowing vocabulary

This page has been archived. The content was correct at the time of original publication, but is no longer updated.
Created on 19 August 2010 by ncetm_administrator
Updated on 03 September 2010 by ncetm_administrator

What Makes a Good Resource

Knowing vocabulary

Resource description:

vocabulary cards

A set of vocabulary cards based on different areas of the mathematics curriculum enough for one per table or group of four.

Teacher comment:

I often find that although my students have a basic understanding of vocabulary they sometimes struggle in applying this knowledge when given a test question or a problem to approach. This resource has allowed the children to become more familiar with different mathematical vocabulary and to unpick the meaning of the words.

What I did:

With a class of year 4 I organised the children into mixed ability groups of 4. I numbered each child from 1-4. Number 1 was a higher attaining child ending with number 4’s being a lower attaining child. The reason for this grouping is that you begin with the highest attaining child describing the vocabulary allowing the lower attaining children the opportunity to listen 3 times before having to do the task.

This grouping is ideal. But what could I do if there was a large gap in attainment levels?

I gave each group a copy of the vocabulary cards linked to addition and subtraction. I then explained that the aim of the game was to guess as many words correctly as possible.

The rules were for number 1’s to pick up one card at a time and try to get the rest of the group to guess the word they had by explaining/describing what it means without saying the word. When they had guessed the word correctly they then have to pick up another card and keep going until 5 minutes is up. I also told them they could have one pass. This could be modelled beforehand if necessary.

I asked each group to tell me how many words they had collected in the first round. Next I told number 1’s to pick up the cards and put them on the top of the pile, then pass the cards to number 2. I then explained that their challenge was to try and beat their previous score. I reset the timer and let them do the activity again with number 2 explaining, starting with the cards that the group guessed correctly first. This is then repeated until all children have had a go at explaining. The game ends when each child has had a chance to pick up cards.

I walked around the classroom as children were working to listen to the discussion and description of each word. The competition element kept the groups focussed on the task and it was fascinating hearing their explanations of the vocabulary.


I really liked this activity as it was very much led by the children. Although I explained the rules of the game it was up to the children to really think about the mathematical explanation in order for the group to guess the word.

This activity allowed me to identify misconceptions as part of AfL. These can then be targeted as part of future lessons.

This challenged the children at first, however when they became more familiar with the format I saw that every child was developing their mathematical language at some level. It is a particularly good activity because there is no ‘right answer’ in how to describe the vocabulary just some ways that are more effective than others. For example for increase ‘the number gets bigger’ or ‘as a number gets larger it is ....’

Another positive thing is that the lower attaining children are able to participate and their confidence is developed by having been able to listen to other descriptions beforehand.

This activity can be developed as the children become more familiar and just become a starter activity and you could reduce the amount of time each person gets to describe. The vocabulary can also be easily adapted to different year groups across key stage 1 and 2. You could create sets of vocabulary for different areas of mathematics e.g. calculation, shape/space and measure or data handling.

Could you use these cards for pre-learning with EAL learners?


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