STEM subjects are on the rise, and for good reasons. By studying science, technology, engineering, and math, kids will develop the skills needed for lucrative careers and to lead the next generation into the future.
However, while parents and teachers see the benefits, kids aren’t sticking with STEM. Nearly a third of college students who began pursuing a STEM degree transferred out of the field. The question becomes, how can teachers and parents get and keep kids interested in STEM at a young age?
Demonstrating STEM as a multifaceted subject may help. It will allow kids to pursue several interests at once. It will also allow them to approach subjects in new ways. This is one of many reasons to use word games to teach kids STEM subjects.
Why Use Word Games to Teach Kids STEM Subjects?
With so many wonderful STEM games out there for kids, why would anyone choose word games in particular? Word games come with several benefits for STEM subjects.
Word games improve vocabulary and spelling.
Teachers of all subjects use word games to improve their students’ vocabulary and spelling. Given the obscure and complicated vocabulary of many science and math disciplines, vocabulary and spelling games could almost be considered a necessity for a STEM classroom.
They encourage a growth mindset.
STEM subjects often feel absolute to kids. Kids feel there’s a right answer and a wrong one with no in between. As a result, kids unintentionally end up in a fixed mindset about STEM. Word games deemphasize the product and emphasize the process, making STEM work feel less like a test.
Kids like games.
This may seem straightforward, but there’s an enormous benefit to meeting kids where they’re at. Kids love games, and by introducing kids to STEM subjects through a variety of games, it will keep them engaged. By using word games in particular, you’ll redirect kids’ thinking from “hard” STEM subjects to something they already like, enjoy, and feel good about.
Teachers can personalize word games.
Word games help strike a balance between time management and personalization for teachers. Unlike creating an entirely new STEM game for the classroom, most kids have encountered word games before. Teachers simply have to alter the games to fit the lesson plan for their class. So, not only can teachers personalize STEM word games, but they’ll also save time when creating and introducing them to their students.
Word Games to Teach Kids STEM Subjects
Now that you have a sense of the “why,” it’s time to focus on the actual games. All of these are great word games to teach kids STEM subjects for their ease and fun.
To start off simply, create a list of STEM vocabulary words for your classroom and play some Hangman! Choose a word from your list of vocabulary words, draw the blank spaces for each letter, and challenge your students to reveal the word before the stick figure meets its end. This classic word game simply requires a writing tool and a piece of paper or a whiteboard.
Crosswords and Word Searches
Word searches can also help students become more familiar with the spelling of STEM vocabulary. Then, add definitions and uses of STEM words to crossword clues. This will help students develop a well-rounded understanding of STEM vocabulary. Make crosswords and word searches easily and quickly with a joint subscription to a crossword and word search maker.
The Matching Game
Similar to crosswords, the matching game will help students develop their vocabulary and an understanding of how each word interacts with a STEM subject at large. For example, for math match word problems to their answers. For science, match an element on the periodic table with its symbol. Make your matching game easily with some paper, a writing utensil, and some scissors.
To create a word ladder, change one letter of a word at a time until you arrive at another word. Then, add clues to get students to each word in the ladder. Bonus points if all of the words pertain to STEM! Of course, the words can be a mix of STEM and non-STEM terms, such as in this puzzle.
Increasing the Difficulty of Your STEM Word Games
Teachers and parents can alter each of these word games to increase or decrease the difficulty for their kids. You might let students know that they can “level up” if they complete a difficult puzzle, which will add an extra challenge to the fun.
First, you can offer a word list to make the game easier, or take one away to make it harder. Kids will have to remember the words on their own as they play more games. Similarly, for Hangman or for crosswords, you can fill in some of the letters beforehand to make the game easier. Then, leave everything blank to make it more difficult.
You can also add longer or shorter words to your games. Or, for the matching game, you might make words more or less similar to each other. It will be easier to remember the differences between “add” and “subtract,” for example, than the differences between “digit” and “diameter.”
Then, for some of the games, you can give more or less information in the clues. For crosswords, word searches, or the matching game, students might need to solve an actual equation to match it to an answer. This makes each game more difficult than a simple fill-in-the-blank. This word search shows how word games can start young kids off with simple math problems.
Or, students might need to consider how the word is used instead of simply what it means. For example, a crossword clue might say, “Silver, gold, iron, and steel are all ____.” Answer? CONDUCTORS.
Finally, for all of the games, you can time your students. Start off with any amount of time you’d like, as the pressure of a running clock will automatically make any game more difficult. Then, lessen the time to really add to the pressure.
Use these word games to teach kids STEM subjects as a starting point. A little bit of creativity in STEM can go a long way to keep kids interested and innovative. In a few years, you may find that students not only are majoring in STEM, but they’re sticking with it, too.
Kristen Seikaly is a blogger and content writer specializing in topics concerning education, lifestyle, and the arts. Originally from Michigan, she now lives in Philadelphia with her family. Visit her website at www.KristenSeikaly.com.