For many students, biology can be an inherently challenging subject. We ask our students to develop a broad linguistic foundation of new terminology, and to use this new language to evaluate and communicate about complex biological processes. As instructors, we already speak the language and we have had many years to think about biological interactions, and so we sometimes forget what it was like to struggle to piece together new information when we were novices. In my classes, I use a variety of techniques to help students acquire foundational knowledge, to practice using it, and to understand how to apply their knowledge to new situations. I have used these principles to teach a wide range of courses including ecology, general biology, and comparative physiology, and to develop materials for community outreach.