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Greek and Latin Vocabulary Research

Despite universal consensus among reading-researchers regarding the effectiveness of teaching and learning Greek and Latin affixes (prefixes and suffixes) and roots, some of the existing research regarding which to teach and which not to teach has never trickled down into the classroom. The following article will explore why this may be the case and will remedy this deficit with two resources: 1. The latest and greatest Greek and Latin word parts lists 2. My carefully crafted 25 Greek and Latin Power Words, which include the 60 highest frequency Greek and Latin word parts according to these research-based lists.

Of course, this is only one example of the disconnect between academia and teachers in terms of educational research; however, by taking a look at the one, perhaps the many can also be addressed. My take is that both institutional and cultural norms and biases share equal responsibility for this failure.

Why Relevant Educational Research Does Not Show up in the Classroom: Who’s to Blame?

Google

A quick Google search for “Greek and Latin word lists” brings 18,700,000 search results. Each list varies greatly and, because the Internet remains the Wild, Wild, West, no quality control in the search rankings differentiates among Ms. Peabody’s favorite word parts list, a paid ad for a list used to promote a commercial product, and a research-based list. It’s overly simplistic to expect teachers to have the crap detector expertise and time to sort the wheat from the chaff.

Here, the Google algorithms fail us. Older, established websites and articles with popularity come up higher in the search rankings. Newer articles, such as this one, will be fortunate to crack the Google Top 50. Even diligent educators will wind up with commercially purposed Greek and Latin word part lists or sources based upon old research, for example Thorndike’s 1941 suffix word list.

Teachers and School Districts

Teachers and their school districts share some of the blame as well. Although the former are generally exposed to some educational research in teacher credential programs, little decision-making in the classroom is based upon objective research studies. Teachers are busy, generally adverse to change, and peer-pressured. If they have a hard copy class set list of Greek and Latin word parts or a PDF of such in their vocabulary folder, it would take a rare teacher to take the time to get to search ranking #65 to find the best resource for her students. Additionally, teachers all succumb to a herd mentality. If their grade-level or department colleagues agreed to each a certain vocabulary list years ago, it would take an act of God to change that same list. Greek and Latin word lists. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is the widely-accepted teacher mantra. Strike out on your own and you might receive the death penalty label: “She’s not a team player.”

School district leaders crave uniformity and exert various degrees of control over curriculum. Many Google searches with “district” added into the search bar, provide consensus lists of Greek and Latin prefixes, roots, and suffixes, all neatly divided into grade level expectations. I’ve yet to find any district lists which are based upon the best and most recent research on Greek and Latin word part utility and frequency.

Publishers

I must start with the disclaimer. I am one: a teacher-publisher. Publishers and their authors have diverse motivations for what they produce. Despite many good intentions, both are limited by one factor: their paying audiences. Supply is driven by demand and not the converse. The status quo, if it is profitable, is the decision-making benchmark.

Fortunately, the nature of publishing is changing to a degree. When I published hardcover teacher manuals and softcover student workbooks for my grades 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 Grammar, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary series, some of the research-basis for my curriculum in both orthography and morphology was out of date by the time the books came off the printers. However, with the digital versions of these same resources, I was able to change the curriculum to remain current.

While completing this article, I am writing a new curriculum: How to Improve Your Reading Curriculum. With new research on Greek and Latin word parts (listed at the end of this article), many of my best resources from previous programs will have to be changed to reflect better research-based practice. Traditional print-only publishers do not have the adaptive capabilities, nor the financial incentives to implement newer educational research.

University Professors

In the educational hierarchy, university professors are perceived to have the expertise and access to the latest and greatest educational research. They should know better, but often choose not to know. Unlike teachers and school district leaders, ignorance is not a valid excuse for these folks.

Why do American university professors tend to cherry pick certain Greek and Latin morphological research studies and avoid others? I won’t pretend to provide a comprehensive answer, and many professors will not fit the following generalization. However, if it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, it just might be…

Ethnocentrism

Why don’t American teachers get the latest and greatest research to guide their instruction? I fear that ethnocentrism rears its ugly head. I will cite three examples in the field of vocabulary research.

Dr. Averil Coxhead, senior lecturer at the Victoria University of Wellington School of Linguistics and Applied Language Studies developed and evaluated The Academic Word List (AWL) for her MA thesis. The list has 570 word families (roots) which were selected according to an exacting research criteria. Her thesis was published in 2000, but is just now gaining acceptance and traction among English-language arts and reading intervention teachers interested in teaching Tier 2 academic words. My take? Her study has taken so long to get into the hands of teachers because Dr. Coxhead teaches in an Australian University. By the way, I’ll put on my publisher’s hat for a moment. If you want Dr. Coxhead’s word families list of academic words, divided into grade levels by frequency, read Common Core Academic Language Words and download these grade level lists for free. Yes, they are included in my Common Core Vocabulary Toolkits.

As a second example, Dr. Zheng Wei (Yes, she’s Chinese) contributed her carefully designed and implemented study on the efficacy of teaching and learning Greek and Latin word parts, including a useful high utility and high frequency roots list, for her 2012 doctoral thesis at the same University of Wellington as Dr. Coxhead. A Chinese professor publishing her groundbreaking work at an Australian university? The odds are stacked against this research filtering its way down to teachers.

My last example includes the 2015 research study regarding knowledge of prefixes and suffixes. “The Word Part Levels Test (WPLT) was developed to measure three aspects of affix knowledge: form (recognition of written affix forms), meaning (knowledge of affix meanings), and use (knowledge of the syntactic properties of affixes)” as cited in the 2017 SAGE Journals Language Teaching Research abstract. You guessed it: Researchers Dr. Yosuke Sasao of Toyohashi University of Technology, Japan and Dr. Stuart Webb of the University of Western Ontario, Canada contributed this study with the British corpus used as the source for their affixes.

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Now that I’ve wagged my finger across the educational spectrum, it’s time to share what I perceive to be the most useful educational research in providing the resources teachers need to teach Greek and Latin word parts to their students.

25 Greek and Latin Power Words by Pennington Publishing

25 Greek and Latin Power Words © 2018 Pennington Publishing

If you are still teaching from the same old Greek and Latin word part list, it’s time to update your instruction with the latest computer-generated word lists aggregated from the most recent and highest regarded Greek and Latin word part studies. Download the FREE 25 Greek and Latin Power Words list and forward this article to your colleagues.

If you are interested in comprehensive grades 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 Common Core-aligned vocabulary programs with a strong emphasis on these Greek and Latin word parts, check out Pennington Publishing’s Common Core Vocabulary Toolkits , the Vocabulary Academic Literacy Centers, and our Grammar, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary BUNDLES.

Here’s what teachers are saying about these vocabulary programs:

This is a great resource for core curriculum vocabulary development!

Sharon W.

This vocabulary toolkit has been extremely helpful in teaching vocabulary to our low performing students.

Ashley Evans

Perfect for common core and academic vocabulary!

Marsha Cuttill Price

Get the 25 Greek and Latin Power Words FREE Resource:

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