Tips for Teaching Medical Terminology

Tips for Teaching Medical Terminology


We received the following inquiry from a new faculty member.


I am new to teaching this course, and I’m trying to think of a way to present the material so that I’m not just reading a list of medical terms every week in class.

How does one teach medical terminology and make it easy and exciting to learn?


This is a great question and one that is common, especially for new faculty. I do have some tips for teaching medical terminology to share with you that, hopefully, will make learning both easy and exciting. They are listed below divided into two categories – entire class activities and small group activities.

Some tips are aligned with the textbooks, Exploring Medical Language and Basic Medical Language, however, most of the tips can be used with all medical terminology textbooks.

I hope one or more of these tips will appeal to you enough to try them in your own online or onsite classroom.

Activities for the Entire Class

Beginning the Class

Write a list of terms built from word parts from the assigned chapter on the board. As students enter the classroom, assign each student a term to analyze and define. Engage the entire class in reviewing each student’s work.


Tips for Teaching Medical Terminology
Terms on the board to analyze and define.

Benefit: This beginning of the class activity immediately engages students, asking them to demonstrate learning from the assigned chapter and provides a quick review.

It also gives you a chance to greet students as they enter the classroom and to take attendance while they are engaged in an activity.

Beginning the Chapter

Begin a new chapter by having the students take a pretest. Once completed, go over the answers in class.

Have the students keep their copy. Upon completing the chapter use them to demonstrate to the students how much they have learned.

Teaching Tips - Chapter Pretests
A sample pretest from the Instructor Resources on the Elsevier Evolve website.**

Benefit: This beginning of the chapter activity immediately engages students in the chapter, assists them in evaluating their knowledge of the content, and piques their interest.


Pronounce each term in the word list or use the Student Resources Pronunciation on the Elsevier Evolve website* to hear the terms pronounced. Have the students, as a group, repeat them aloud.

Benefit: Having the students repeat the term aloud as a group gives the students the opportunity to both speak and hear the terms in a safer environment as opposed to having a single student say the term aloud.

Student Presentations

Student Presentations
Student presentations.

If students have been assigned to conduct an interview of a  healthcare professional or write case studies, schedule them to report their results to the class.

Benefit: Student presentations allows for practice of using terms in context while sharing information about medicine and healthcare.


Pronounce Medical Terms in Use 

Pronounce Medical Terms in Use is an exercise from the Exploring Medical Language textbook. Have the students read the paragraph from their textbook or from a copy you have projected on the screen. Ask the students to volunteer to read a sentence aloud until all content is heard.

Tips for Teaching Medical Terminolgy
From Exploring Medical Language, 11th Edition.

Benefit: The pronounce medical terms in use activity gives the students an opportunity to pronounce and hear terms in the context of medical writings.

Ending the Class

Ask each student to give voice to their significant learning from the class time. Require everyone to speak. I call this a Lightning Round of Significant Learning and let students know at the beginning of class that they are responsible for quickly reporting their significant learning for the day to the whole class.

Benefit: This ending of the class activity cultivates an equitable classroom environment by giving all the students time to speak.

It also provides an opportunity to move information from short-term memory into long-term memory through the focus of attention required to select and remember significant learning and through the relational aspect of speaking with others.

Small Group Activities


paper flashcards
Word part flashcards.
  1. Divide the students into small groups of three or four and give them 5-15 minutes.
  2. Direct the students to use their flashcards to review the word parts of the chapter they are studying by having one person hold the card and the others give the meaning. Smartphones, laptops, or tablets may also be used to access electronic flashcards available on the Student Resources on the Elsevier Evolve website*
  3. Extend the activity by having students group cards by the types of information they convey, such as anatomic structure, descriptive, pathology, surgery, and diagnostics.

Benefit: This simple flashcard activity can be quick and effective. If done at the beginning of class time, the students are reminded of the meaning of the word parts and energized by the activity.

Textbook Chapter Exercise

Divide students into small groups.
  1. Divide the students into small groups of three or four.
  2. Assign the groups a textbook chapter exercise to complete in a given amount of time.
  3. When time is up, ask the students to take turns reading the terms and the definitions aloud and/or if analyzing exercises have the student use the board to analyze the terms.

Benefit: The textbook chapter exercise gets students working together and learning from one another while becoming familiar with their textbooks.

They also get practice in saying and hearing the terms. Students may be reluctant to pronounce medical terms aloud so to ask the class as a whole to pronounce the term is a good idea.


  1. Divide the students into small groups of three or four.
  2. Assign a medical record, either one from the textbook or Electronic Health Record from the Student Resources on the Elsevier Evolve website*.  Project the medical record on a screen or have students use their textbooks or devices.
  3. Direct the students to practice reading the medical document within their group.
  4. Extend the activity by asking students to conduct informal internet research on a medical term used in the document by using their phones, laptop, or tablets.
  5. Have the students take turns reading portions of the document to the class at large and share what they learned through research.
EHR Evolve Elsevier Student Resources Exploring Medical Language
Electronic Health Record from Exploring Medical Language Student Resources on the Elsevier Evolve website.*

Benefit: This reading activity is such a meaningful exercise. It brings group attention to the application of terms in the workplace and gives practice in saying terms as well as hearing them in use.


  1. Divide the students into teams – three to four students.
  2. Give each group five terms.
  3. Instruct them to write sentences using each term.
  4. Have the students take turns in reading their sentences aloud to the class.

Benefit: This writing activity gives the students the opportunity to use the terms in sentence form.


Tips for Teaching Medical Terminology
Medical Millionaire game from Student Resources on the Elsevier Evolve website.*
  1. Divide the students into teams – size does not matter.
  2. Use any of the electronic games that accompany your textbook or from another source.
  3. The team with the most correct answers is the winner.

Benefit: Games are great for learning and have a place in the classroom. Make them competitive if you choose.


Where To Find Games

Basic Medical Language Medical Millionaire from Student Resources on the Elsevier Evolve website*.

Exploring Medical Language – Medical Millionaire from Student Resources on the Elsevier Evolve website,* and Tournament of Terminology available on Instructor Resources on the Elsevier Evolve website.** 

Games on the medical terminology blog

A New Instructor Discovers Games for Teaching Medical Terminology


Danielle LaFleur Brooks, MEd, MA
Allied Health Instructor
Community College of Vermont



*STUDENT RESOURCES on the Elsevier Evolve website for Exploring Medical Language and Basic Medical Language including games and exercises that match the textbook content.  Free with the purchase of the textbook.

**INSTRUCTOR RESOURCES on the Elsevier Evolve Website for Exploring Medical Language and Basic Medical Language including lesson plans, power points, handouts, and Tournament of Terminology game. Free with the purchase of the textbook.


Read Other Faculty Tips >

2 Responses

  1. Hello Danielle,

    This is very useful tips for instructors to know, especially one who new to the teaching field. Like myself, I am not an instructor, but I am interested in becoming one. My question for you today, what is the major to have to teach Medical Terminology?

    ***** I am attending graduate school for Applied Languistic. Am I on the right path?

    I’ll keep eyes open to read your response soon. Thank you very much.



    1. I am glad you find Faculty Tips useful. To answer your question about what is the major for teaching medical terminology the quick answer is ‘it varies’. Some instructors have a background in biology, many are health professionals such as nurses. Some have a linguistic background such as yourself. I do think you are on the right path and I suggest you check with a teaching institution near you to find out what they require for instructors to teach medical terminology. Good luck to you. It is such fun to teach, maybe because the language is so useful to the students.

Comments are closed.

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