About the Visual Non-Glossary

The Visual Non-Glossary is a resource designed to make deep learning about science concepts available to all students. This depth is acheived, in the scientific community as much as the science classroom, from rich discussions about science content using academic vocabulary. But students can only engage in academic discussions as much as they have mastered the academic language they need to use. The Visual Non-Glossary helps students master academic science language in two ways:
  1. Through the use of visuals, students are able to comprehend the meaning of vocabulary words in their own language and through their own schemata.
  2. Through the use of structured sentence stems and references to other words, students are able to correctly practice using the words in context.
The sentence stems and questions in this resource are deliberately designed to promote students' use of academic vocabulary. When students are given the opportunity to discuss the questions with partners or within groups, they grow their confidence and competence in pronunciation and proper usage of each word. Requiring students to use certain words in their verbal and/or written responses is effective at helping to build students' vocabulary. Using carefully labeled visuals and asking questions which naturally encourage students to use those labels, however, is an even more effective. It's like giving children broccoli versus folding broccoli into mac 'n cheese. Either way, they're getting their vitamins, but the second way makes them much more likely to do it - and to smile while doing it!

Take the example to the right. A group of four students might share the following responses:

In each example, students are using the academic vocabulary word (vestigial structure) in context and with other vocabulary words (functional, for example). Additionally, students are able to hear ideas from each other and build on each other's ideas. In a bustling learning environment, the simple question "Where does a vestigial structure originate from?" turns into a rich discussion about what vestigial structures are, how they are formed, and how they remind the students of instances from their own lives.

Why is it called the "Non-Glossary?"

While this resource has a list of common vocabulary words aligned to the TEKS and NGSS standards, it is in every other respect not a glossary. This resource, unlike glossaries, is not designed to provide definitions of words. The word "definition" derives in part from the Latin word finis, meaning a boundary or limit. The definitions found in glossaries are fixed, absolute statements which, by their nature, set a boundary or limit to student success. Either the student reaches the boundary (understands or accepts the definition) or falls short of the boundary (fails to understand or accept the definition). The rigidness of glossaries is problematic because they (a) fail to accommodate students whose background knowledge restricts them from understanding all the terms in the way the glossary writers do and (b) offer no opportunity for students to think any more deeply about the scientific concept than the boundary of the definition determines.

Instead of providing definitions, this resource asks questions, and provides the support (through sentence stems and visuals) that students need to infer meaning and make connections about science content.

How to Access the Visual Non-Glossary

Access codes for each grade level are available for $100 using this order form. Access codes are valid for one calendar year. The samples and strategies featured on this website are always open to the public.

Contact the Creator of the Visual Non-Glossary

The Visual Non-Glossary is built with a mind for what works in modern classrooms. As this is an electronic resource, it is constantly updating based on feedback from the teachers who are using it. If you have any comments, questions, suggestions, requests, or ideas for improvement, please contact Dr. Stephen Fleenor.

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