• academic language: words about specific topics and subjects that children must learn in order to be successful in school
  • engineering: the process of designing tools, systems, and structures that help humans meet their needs or solve problems
  • mathematics: the study of quantities (how many or how much), structures (shapes), space (angles and distances), and change
  • open-ended questions: questions that require critical thinking, invite opinion or explanation, and result in more than a one-word answer
  • science: the process of finding out about the world and how it works by exploring, gathering data, looking for relationships and patterns, and generating explanations and ideas using evidence
  • STEM: an interdisciplinary approach to learning where students learn and apply concepts in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics
  • STEM vocabulary: words that relate to the processes of science, technology, engineering, and math (e.g., categorize, change, classify, collaborate, communicate, compare, construct, count, describe, design, discover, discuss, draw, experiment, explain, graph, identify, investigate, listen, measure, notice, observe, plan, predict, problem-solve, question, record, share, sort, use senses, watch)
  • technology: the tools that have been designed to meet human needs, such as balance scales to compare weights, lenses to look closely at living things, and digital tools like computers and tablets

Integrate STEM Vocabulary

Before watching this video, read the text below. When instructed, watch the video from the beginning to end.

You help children build language skills every day when you ask questions and facilitate conversations. STEM explorations are a great context for developing children’s vocabulary. As they engage in STEM activities, children do what scientists and engineers do—they observe, investigate, ask questions, measure, design, and build—as they do they can use the same vocabulary that scientists and engineers use. You can facilitate this language development by integrating STEM vocabulary into daily interactions with children.

  • Provide a label for children’s actions. Point out when children make observations, predictions, collaborate, discuss, design, plan, investigate, construct, explain, use their senses, problem-solve, and communicate. For example, Josh, I noticed that you are carefully watching and observing how the ball rolls down the ramp. Or, Emily has designed a wide ramp. Let’s notice what happens when the ball rolls down the ramp
  • Integrate STEM vocabulary before, during and after activities. The more often children hear a word, the better they will understand what it means and be able to use it themselves.

In this video, you’ll see educators model for children how to use STEM vocabulary before, during and after an activity. You’ll also see how the educators encourage children to learn and use these words. As you watch, look for effective strategies used by the educators in the video and jot down answers to these viewing questions in your Learning Log.

  • How do educators model STEM vocabulary?
  • How do educators prompt children to use STEM vocabulary to express their ideas?


Why is it important for you to integrate STEM vocabulary throughout the day?

  • Vocabulary is a crucial aspect of language, communication, and learning. When young children understand and use words such as compare, predict, plan, investigate, design, and observe, it helps them engage more fully in STEM learning and it increases their overall vocabulary development.
  • Young children should hear and use mathematical language (e.g., longer, shorter, higher, more, fewer, follow, add, construct, etc.). When children engage in STEM activities, they encounter these words often.
  • Children learn words gradually over time and as they hear and use words in different contexts. They continually deepen their understanding of words in parallel with related concepts (e.g., they learn what the verb sink means in tandem with learning what the action of sinking is.)

How can you encourage children to use STEM vocabulary?

  • Model the use of STEM vocabulary. (Let’s test it out; Let’s do an experiment; Everybody observe what Nicole is doing; You predicted that the flashlight would slide.)
  • Label children’s actions. Point out when children observe, predict, collaborate, discuss, design, plan, investigate, construct, explain, use their senses, problem-solve, and communicate. (Claudio is going to put a leaf in the water. Do you predict it will sink or float? Let’s notice what happens.)
  • Integrate STEM vocabulary before, during, and after activities. The more children hear a word, the better they will understand what it means, and be able to use it themselves.


Think about the learning environment at your own program as you answer these reflection questions in your Learning Log.

  • What strategies do you use to model and integrate the language and vocabulary of STEM?
  • What did you learn that you will put into practice in your learning environment?
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