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Lesson 3: What about Greek and Latin Roots?


Morphology is about investigating words and word parts. Those parts of Greek and Latin origin are some of the ones studied more frequently, and which have long been a part of traditional schooling. They do form the basis of many of our more “learned” words; hence, they are studied in school from elementary school on up to high school SAT prep. There are already lots of lesson plans, flash cards, and worksheets out there. Just google something like: “Latin and Greek roots, middle school” and you’ll get more worksheets and lesson plans than you’ll know what to do with. I’m sure many of them are good. These seem like they might be, for example:


Here’s one teacher (Stephanie)’s blog about teaching about word roots with her 4th and 5th graders, but could be easily adapted for middle schoolers.


And this looks like a good resource for middle school word study, which also discussed the emphasis that the Common Core Standards place on such study, and some of this teacher (a different Stephanie)’s tips for getting started.


And here's a mini list with a mini activity on Latin and Greek morphemes from TeachLing.


So we don’t need to reinvent the wheel. You may want to include some of these Greek and Latin root word kinds of activities in your classes. And once you engage your students in analyzing words, they’ll discover that it’s engaging, it’s useful, it’s revealing. It reveals the incredible complexity of our language(s) and the depth of our knowledge about words, morphemes, meaning, and structure. That’s empowering. But first, just a quick (not at all exhaustive or inclusive) overview of the evidence that morphological analysis helps reading, comprehension, and vocabulary development, in case you need to justify this kind of study to anyone. The work by Nagy et al. is frequently cited:


Nagy, William; Berninger, Virginia W.; Abbott, Robert D., Contributions of morphology beyond phonology to literacy outcomes of upper elementary and middle-school students. Journal of Educational Psychology, Vol 98(1), Feb 2006, 134-147


and an article by Mark Pacheco and Amanda Goodwin from 2009 “Putting Two and Two Together: Middle School Students' Morphological Problem-Solving Strategies For Unknown Words” in Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy.


Some with online links to the full articles are Prince 2009, “Morphological analysis: New light on a vital reading skill”


Mary Stowe, “Teaching Morphology: Enhancing Vocabulary Development and Reading Comprehension”


Pamela J. Hickey and Tarie Lewis, “The Common Core, English Learners, and Morphology 101: Unpacking LS.4 for ELLs"


Tom S. Bellomo “Morphological Analysis and Vocabulary Development: Critical Criteria”


Lindsay A. Harris, “Adolescent Literacy: Word Study With Middle and High School Students,”


So there’s plenty of research-based evidence that word study - not just of Greek and Latin roots, but of any old word - is useful, practical, enlightening, and will basically help us all be better people. There are already lots of helpful hints, useful lessons, and engaging word matrices out there. Have fun morphologizing!


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