QUESTION: How does one teach medical terminology and make it easy and exciting to learn?
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.
ANSWER: This is a great question and one that is common, especially for new faculty. I do have some tips for you, and they focus on involving students in classroom activities.
Beginning the Class
As students walk in the door, assign to each student a term written on the board to analyze and define. Review as a class after taking attendance.
Benefit: This 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, then allow the students to keep it. It can be reviewed at the completion of the chapter to demonstrate to the students how much they have learned. Develop your own chapter pretest, or use those from TEACH, a faculty helper handbook under the Instructor Resources Option on the Elsevier Evolve website.**
Benefit: This 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 Option* on the Elsevier Evolve website pronunciation exercise to hear the words pronounced then have the students, as a group, repeat them.
Benefit: This activity gives the students the opportunity to both speak and hear the terms in a positive supportive environment.
If students have been assigned to conduct a healthcare professional interview or write case studies, schedule them to report their results to the class.
Benefit: This activity allows students’ 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 from their textbook or from a copy projected on the screen. Ask the students to volunteer to read a sentence aloud until all content is heard.
Benefit: This 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 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
- Divide the students into small groups of three or four and give them 5-15 minutes.
- 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 Option* on the Elsevier Evolve website
- 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 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 the students into small groups of three or four.
- Assign the groups a textbook chapter exercise to complete in a given amount of time.
- 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 whiteboard to analyze the terms.
Benefit: This activity 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.
Divide the students into small groups of three or four.
- Assign a medical record, either one from the textbook or Electronic Health Record from the Student Resources Option* on the Elsevier Evolve website. Project the medical record on a screen or have students use their textbooks or devices.
- Direct the students to practice reading the medical document within their group.
- 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.
- Have the students take turns reading portions of the document to the class at large and share what they learned through research.
Benefit: This 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.
- Divide the students into teams – three to four students.
- Give each group five terms.
- Instruct them to write sentences using each term.
- Have the students take turns in reading their sentences aloud to the class.
Benefit: This activity gives the students the opportunity to use the terms in sentence form.
- Divide the students into teams – size does not matter.
- Use any of the electronic games that accompany your textbook.
- 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. A favorite for Basic Medical Language is Medical Millionaire from Student Resources Option* on the Elsevier Evolve website and two favorites for Exploring Medical Language are Medical Millionaire from Student Resources Option* on the Elsevier Evolve website, and Tournament of Terminology available on TEACH, a faculty helper handbook under the Instructor Resources Option on the Elsevier Evolve website.** Tournament of Terminology is a good game for review and to prepare students for exams.
*STUDENT RESOURCES OPTION on the Elsevier Evolve website for Exploring Medical Language and Basic Medical Language including games and exercises that match the textbook content.
**INSTRUCTOR RESOURCES OPTION on the Elsevier Evolve Website for Exploring Medical Language and Basic Medical Language including lesson plans, power points, handouts, and Tournament of Terminology game.
Danielle LaFleur Brooks, MEd, MA
Allied Health Instructor
Community College of Vermont
Post update January 2018 to reflect changes.
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