Archive

Posts Tagged ‘Common Core Vocabulary Toolkit’

Build Vocabulary through Reading

Learning Vocabulary through Reading

Building Vocabulary through Reading

The reading research certainly supports direct vocabulary instruction: According to the National Reading Panel (2000), explicit instruction of vocabulary is highly effective in improving reading comprehension. “Students should be explicitly taught both specific words and word-learning strategies. To deepen students’ knowledge of word meanings, specific word instruction should be robust” (Beck et al., 2002). In fact, the vocabulary standards delineated in the Common Core Anchor Standards for Language mention each of these explicit areas of vocabulary instruction.

  • Multiple Meaning Words and Context Clues (L.4.a.)
  • Greek and Latin Word Parts (L.4.a.)
  • Language Resources (L.4.c.d.)
  • Figures of Speech (L.5.a.)
  • Word Relationships (L.5.b.)
  • Connotations (L.5.c.)
  • Academic Language Words (L.6.0)

Teaching to these vocabulary standards will enrich your students depth of vocabulary knowledge and will teach your students how language and words help us learn. And reading research indicates that students can learn some 400 words per year in school through explicit vocabulary instruction (Beck, McKewon & Kucan, 2002).

However,

Numerous studies have estimated that students need to learn from 2,000–4,000 new words per year to make grade to grade reading growth. The most widely cited study indicates that students need to learn 3,000 new words per year (Honig 1983).

So, if the vocabulary standards help students master 400 words per year, how can we ensure that students learn the additional 2,600 words needed to make at least one grade level of reading growth in our classrooms? The Common Core authors discuss this solution in Appendix A of the CCSS document.  So, what is this key instructional strategy that will help your students meet and exceed that goal of 3,000 new words per year?

Independent reading.

Let’s do the math. When reading at independent levels (around 95% word recognition*), that means that students are exposed to 5% unknown words. Reading at an average 200 words per minute, 30 minutes per day, 4 days per week, means that students will read 864,000 words during the school year. If 5% of these words are unknown to the reader and the reader masters 10%** of those unknown words, this results in a gain of not 3,000, but 4,320 new vocabulary words! (30 minutes x 200 words = 6,000 x 4 days per week = 24,000 x 36 weeks = 864,000 words read in a year x 5% unknown words = 43,200 x 10% mastery =4,320.

Now, having been convinced regarding the efficacy of building vocabulary through independent reading, let’s not jump to the same conclusions that some advocates of the “whole language” approach to reading made during the 1980s and 1990s and the “balanced literature” adherents make today: If incidental vocabulary acquisition through wide reading produces a greater number of new words (4,320 in our example) than does explicit vocabulary instruction (400), let’s abandon explicit vocabulary instruction altogether.

This conclusion is flawed. Consider this question: What is it that allows the reader to mastery 10% of the 5% unknown words when reading text at optimal word recognition levels? It’s precisely the vocabulary strategies that readers internalize through explicit instruction and practice. For example, numerous studies suggest that using instructional strategies that teach students how to use context clues effectively can improve that 10% mastery of unknown words (Rhoder and Huerster, 2002, Greenwood and Flanigan, 2007). Additionally, explicit instruction in Greek and Latin word parts which appear in 50% of Tier 2 academic vocabulary can provide the structural clues to significantly improve that 10% number. Clearly, studying non-contextual vocabulary can improve the efficiency of readers to understand and master contextual vocabulary in reading.

Bottom line: Students need both explicit vocabulary instruction (those Common Core grade-level vocabulary standards) and enough independent reading to make at least one grade level of reading progress.

But, how can we be sure that it’s independent reading that teaches the most vocabulary? Don’t students learn vocabulary naturally through listening throughout their school day and at home? Don’t students get plenty of reading throughout the day in literature, science, and social studies texts? Way back in 1988, reading researchers Hayes and Athens published interesting research regarding this question. They counted the number of words above the 1,000 highest frequency words (usually mastered by most primary grade students) for a variety of listening venues such as adult-level conversations, court cases, and the nightly news. As an example, watching and listening to the nightly news exposes the viewer/listener to only 19 of these key words. In contrast, reading for the same amount of time provides a much higher exposure to words beyond the most frequently used 1,000 words. For example, reading a challenging comic book for the same amount of time exposes the reader to 53 of these challenging words. Reading a challenging book for the same amount of time exposes a reader to 75. Unfortunately, research indicates that the amount students read in a school day through teacher-directed reading tasks is miminal. Clearly, independent reading is the most efficient means of learning new words, when supported by explicit vocabulary instruction.

When should students complete their independent reading?

Many teachers buy into the research on the value of independent reading and provide in-class time for sustained silent reading. However, my take is that independent reading in class is largely both inefficient and reductive.

Again, taking a look at the math, few teachers (other than “The Book Whisperer”) at the elementary, middle, and high school levels would be willing or even permitted to allocate the 120 minutes per week of class time necessary to achieve optimal vocabulary growth. In a typical secondary ELA class with 200 minutes of instructional time per week (less with holidays and all-too-frequent instructional interruptions), the 120 minutes would take up more than half of available instructional time. Few principals would permit this encroachment upon teaching grade-level standards. As one of my own principals once told our middle school ELA department, “The district is not paying you to babysit students doing independent reading. Earn your paychecks!” The principal’s statements were a trifle blunt, but essentially correct that all instructional time is reductive. You can’t add something without taking away something.

Now some teachers might be tempted to compromise and facilitate independent reading for some time in class and some time at home. My response is “Why not all independent reading at home?” Independent reading is the perfect homework. I can hear the arguments about why this won’t work rolling in… “They won’t do it. Parents won’t support it. There’s no accountability. It takes too much time to grade and manage it.” I’m not convince. Clever teachers can solve those problems.

As a reading specialist, I’ve taught at the elementary, middle, high school, and community college levels. I recently retired as a middle school ELA teacher. Reading research indicates that middle schoolers read less on their own than any other age group. At a lower performing, 75% free and reduced lunch, multi-ethnic, multi-language school, I have success rates of 80–90% compliance with students reading 120 minutes per week at home. How? I train parents and students in how to do and supervise independent reading and daily 3–5 minute reading discussions. I get students and parents to buy in by requiring student-parent trainings. I meet with each and every parent, 130 or so. This investment of time pays off because I don’t have to grade student response journals, book reports, etc. Instead, I train and trust parents to grade the quality of their child’s discussion and I count it as 15% of the student’s total grade. I mix things up with other activities which ensure accountability, such as online book clubs in which students must post and discuss and parents and I (I can’t resist) pop-in to the mix. My point is that you, the teacher, know what will work for your students, and with some experimentation, you can figure how how to hold students accountable for independent reading homework.

Which books should students read? How should students select these books?

How do you get students to read books at the optimal word recognition levels? You don’t have to spend thousands on Accelerated Reader® or Reading Counts! You don’t have to look for Fountas Pinnell A–Z+ leveled books. You don’t have to look for grade-level equivalents. You don’t have to match student Lexile levels to published book lists. You don’t have to do running records and a miscue analysis for each student.

The key to matching students to the right books is to train students (and parents at lower grade levels) to do so. Students don’t have access to the above data, nor will they as lifelong readers. I do believe in Reggie Routman’s mantra: If the book is too difficult, it will lead to frustration; too little of a challenge will lead to boredom. Students can be trained to pick the “Goldilocks Level”: not too easy, not too hard, just right (Routman, 2003). You don’t even have to require all independent reading to be at optimal levels. Some will be less optimal; some, especially if you agree with the Common Core author’s notions about text complexity, should be more rigorous.

Boredom is a powerful disincentive. Teachers worry far too much that students will pick easier books over more challenging ones. My experience is that students learn from their own mistakes. Students want to read texts which match their maturity levels. Believe me, successful authors know how to match content and vocabulary levels to their target audiences. Additionally, motivation plays an important role in book selection. When Harry Potter books were hot off the press, my fourth grader read far beyond his tested reading levels in the last few JK Rowling novels, to be able to access what his older brothers were reading and talking about. Self-selected reading will almost always be perfectly acceptable if students are trained in how to avoid boredom and frustration.

Teach one of these two methods to help students (and parents) pick the right books for independent reading. And let me reiterate once again, not all independent reading needs to conform to these challenge levels to get students to meet or exceed our 3,000 words annual goal:

  1. The five and ten finger method (five for grades 3–5 chapter books and ten for grades 6–adult novels). Big print chapter books have about 100 words per page. Smaller print novels have about twice that number (200 words per page). Students read a random page from a book they want to read and count the number of unknown words as they read, using their fingers. If the number of unknown words is close to the 5 , say 3–7 for bigger print books or 10, say 7–13 for small print novels, that’s a good match.
  2. Select any complete page at random and count the number of words on that page. Read that same page, counting the number of unknown words as you read. Anything within the 3-7% range is a good match. For example, a reader counts the number of words on a page and arrives at 225. While reading, the student counts 11 unknown words. 11.00 ÷ 225 = .05, or 5%.

*Word recognition is simply the ability of the reader to accurately read and automatically understand a word (Reutzel & Cooter 2009). Vocabulary experts agree that adequate reading comprehension depends on a person already knowing between 90 and 95 percent of the words in a text (Hirsch, 2003). For second language learners, Results suggest that the 98% estimate is a more reasonable coverage target for readers of academic texts (Schmitt, Jiang, Grabe 2012). Most reading specialists support 95% as an optimal level of word recognition for vocabulary growth in which the reader’s comprehension is not adversely affected by too many unknown words, but enough unknown words are provided to enable incidental learning by knowledge of context clues.

**A commonly used figure by reading researchers with variables such as repetitions, word families, inflections, prior knowledge of content, primary language ability, and knowledge of and ability to apply context clues.

For teachers looking only for a solid one-year vocabulary program, check out the Common Core Vocabulary Toolkits (grades 4-8). The 56 Vocabulary Worksheets include

Pennington Publishing's Common Core Vocabulary Toolkit

Common Core Vocabulary Toolkit

Multiple Meaning Words and Context Clues (L.4.a.); Greek and Latin Word Parts (L.4.a.); Language Resources (L.4.c.d.); Figures of Speech (L.5.a.); Word Relationships (L.5.b.); Connotations (L.5.c.); and Academic Language Words (L.6.0). Students learn ten Tier Two and Tier Three words (the words recommended in Appendix A of the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts and Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects) each week. Want to check out sample lessons? Preview This Book.

Here are FREE samples of vocabulary worksheets from this comprehensive program–ready to teach in your class today. Each resource includes directions, four grade-specific vocabulary worksheets, worksheet answers, vocabulary study cards, and a short unit test with answers.

Get the Grade 4 Vocabulary Worksheets FREE Resource:

Get the Grade 5 Vocabulary Worksheets FREE Resource:

Get the Grade 6 Vocabulary Worksheets FREE Resource:

Get the Grade 7 Vocabulary Worksheets FREE Resource:

Get the Grade 8 Vocabulary Worksheets FREE Resource:

Want five FREE lessons to teach the SCRIP Comprehension Strategies plus a FREE set of SCRIP Posters and Bookmarks sent to your email? 

Get the SCRIP Comprehension Strategies FREE Resource:

Mark Pennington, MA Reading Specialist, is the author of the comprehensive assessment-based reading intervention curriculum, the Teaching Reading Strategies and Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books BUNDLEIdeal for students reading two or more grade levels below current grade level, tiered response to intervention programs, ESL, ELL, ELD, and special education students. Simple directions, YouTube training videos, and well-crafted activities truly make this an almost no-prep curriculum. Works well as a half-year intensive program or full-year program. Phonological awareness, phonics, syllabication, sight words, fluency (with 128 YouTube modeled readings), spelling, vocabulary and comprehension. The 54 accompanying guided reading phonics books each have comprehension questions, a focus sound-spelling pattern, controlled sight words, a 30-second word fluency, a running record, and cleverly illustrated cartoons by David Rickert to match each entertaining story. These resources provide the best reading intervention program at a price every teacher can afford.

Teaching Reading Strategies and Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books BUNDLE

Reading, Spelling/Vocabulary, Study Skills , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

ELA Language Anchor Standards | Curriculum Maps

Common Core State Standards

Common Core State Standards

If you and your grade-level team and/or department are committed to teaching the ELA Language Anchor Standards (the CCSS Anchor Standards for Language), these resources are for you!

Download these FREE full-year detailed grades 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 curriculum maps to break down the grade-level CCSS Language Strand Standards into a specific instructional scope and sequence that is realistic and do-able for the entire school year. The 28 instructional weeks provide a rigorous pacing guide with additional time for beginning of the year diagnostic assessments, midterm and final exams, and standardized testing blocks.

These maps indicate which grammar, usage, and mechanics lessons to teach in the order that most teachers agree makes sense. The spelling components are organized by conventional spelling rules and developmental spelling patterns. The vocabulary section lists includes the following: Multiple Meaning Words and Context Clues (L.4.a.); Greek and Latin Word Parts (L.4.a.); Language Resources (L.4.c.d.); Figures of Speech (L.5.a.); Word Relationships (L.5.b.); Connotations (L.5.c.); and Academic Language Words (L.6.0) derived from the research-based Academic Words List.

This FREE download includes all grade-level L. 1,2 grammar, usage, mechanics (language conventions), L. 2 spelling, L. 3 knowledge of language, and L. 4, 5, 6 vocabulary Common Core State Standards.

The curriculum maps are included in the author, Mark Pennington’s standards and assessment-based programs. These programs help you teach each of the Language Anchor Standards with diagnostic, formative, and summative (unit) assessments to ensure that your students have mastered the standards. Plus, remedial worksheets provide the extra practice some of your students need to catch up while they keep up with grade-level standards. Read through the product descriptions before downloading your grade-level ELA Language Anchor Standards Curriculum Map at the end of the article.

Grammar, Usage, Mechanics (L.1,2)

Teaching Grammar and Mechanics Programs

Teaching Grammar and Mechanics

Pennington Publishing provides traditional grades 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and high school programs, including interactive instruction, practice, simple sentence diagrams, mentor texts, writing application, formative assessments, and biweekly unit tests. Diagnostic assessments help pinpoint remedial CCSS Standards deficits, and students are assigned targeted worksheets, each with a formative assessment, correspond to all test items.

Additionally, Pennington Publishing sells grade-level and remedial grammar, usage, and mechanics literacy centers (stations) and multi-level grades 4−8 interactive grammar, usage, and mechanics notebooks.

Spelling Differentiated Instruction

Differentiated Spelling Instruction

Spelling (L.2)

The Differentiated Spelling Instruction grades 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 programs offer grade-level spelling instruction built upon the conventional spelling rules and developmental spelling patterns. Each lesson includes a 20-word spelling test and spelling patterns sort (all word provided). After 7 weeks of instruction, students take a summative assessment. The diagnostic spelling assessment includes all previous grade-level spelling patterns, and corresponding worksheets (each with a formative assessment) target each test item.

Reading, Writing, Listening, and Speaking (L.3)

Teaching Grammar through Writing

Writing Openers Language Application

The Writing Application Openers grades 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 programs provide 56 whole-class, twice-per-week “quick writes,” designed to help students learn, practice, and apply grade-level grammar, usage, mechanics, sentence structure, and sentence variety standards. Teaching Grammar and Mechanics High School includes these openers, as well.

Common Core Vocabulary Toolkits Grades 4-8

Common Core Vocabulary Toolkits

Vocabulary Acquisition and Use (L.4,5,6)

The Common Core Vocabulary Toolkit grades 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 programs include 56 vocabulary worksheets to help students master each standard: multiple meaning words, Greek and Latin word parts, language resources (dictionary/thesaurus), figures of speech, word relationships, connotations, and academic language words (chosen from the research-based Academic Words List. Each lesson has vocabulary study cards and review games. Biweekly tests require students to define and apply the words in the writing context. Syllable and context clues vocabulary worksheets add depth to these grade-level programs.

BUNDLES

Pennington Publishing offers comprehensive grades 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 Grammar, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary BUNDLES to teach each of the Common Core Anchor Standards for Language.

Get the Grade 4 Curriculum Map Anchor Standards for Language FREE Resource:

Get the Grade 5 Curriculum Map Anchor Standards for Language FREE Resource:

Get the Grade 6 Curriculum Map Anchor Standards for Language FREE Resource:

Get the Grade 7 Curriculum Map Anchor Standards for Language FREE Resource:

Get the Grade 8 Curriculum Map Anchor Standards for Language FREE Resource:

Grammar/Mechanics, Literacy Centers, Spelling/Vocabulary, Writing , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Teach Morphemes, Not Just Academic Words

My purpose in this article is convince teachers to include high utility and high frequency Greek and Latin meaning-based

Teach Morphemes

Teach Morphemes, Not Just Academic Words

word parts as part of a balanced vocabulary program and to provide the FREE tools to teach them. Good vocabulary instruction includes structural analysis (how words are put together), not just a list of tough academic words or difficult words which your students will be reading in a story or in an article. And good vocabulary instruction does not include a weekly list of Greek and Latin-based SAT or ACT vocabulary words with the quiz on Friday.

To support my case, that teachers should “Teach Morphemes, Not Just Whole Words,” let’s get on the same page regarding what function these Greek and Latin word parts serve as English vocabulary-builders.

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, a morpheme is the smallest unit of language that has its own meaning, either a word or a part of a word: “Worker” contains two morphemes: “work” and “-er”. Notice that the word part must be meaning-based to be a morpheme; not an inflection. An inflection is a change in the form of a word (usually the ending) which indicates a grammatical function or attribute such as person, number, case, gender, mood, or verb tense.

Of course, Greek and Latin are not the only foreign-based morphemes in English. We have plenty of other languages which provide their own morphological contributions. I do suggest including a brief lesson on English Language History to teach your students why we have so many words which have inconsistent spellings and pronunciations. However, it’s the Greek and Latin derivations which constitute the vast majority of words which you students are challenged by in difficult text. You may wish to prove this to your students by using the clear examples from this article: Greek and Latin “Dead” Languages.

Check out the Latin (in red) in this first sentence from the Federalist Papers #1 by Alexander Hamilton:

After an unequivocal experience of the inefficacy of the subsisting Federal Government, you are called upon to deliberate on a new Constitution for the United States of America.

“Government” was a Greek derivation through the French, by the way. Not to be outdone, let’s check out the Greek (in red) in this sentence about Hamilton’s arch rival, Thomas Jefferson:

Thomas Jefferson’s views on democracy were greeted with widespread cynicismsarcasm, and even panic by European rulers.

Now, most teachers would agree that these are important Tier 2 (Beck in the Common Core Appendix A) academic words to master. I agree, but not by creating a list, having students look them up in the dictionary, and quizzing on Friday. Instead, teach the morphemes!

Let’s use the first word, unequivocal, to prove my point.

Let’s say you passed out the word list of the above red words on Monday and had students look each up in the dictionary. Students look up unequivocal. According to the Oxford Dictionary of English (3rd Edition), they would find this definition:

Unequivocal means “leaving no doubt; unambiguous.”

This definition does provide some clues to meaning; however, for most of your students, it doesn’t provide a complete understanding of the word. As is often the case, dictionary authors use difficult vocabulary in their definitions. For many of us, the word unambiguous in this definition is just as tough to understand as Hamilton’s word, unequivocal. Additionally, dictionaries provide multiple definitions for many words, so we’re often stuck with the old conundrum: You have to know the definition to learn the definition. Lastly, dictionaries only provide the denotative meanings of the words, not the connotative meanings. In other words, authors frequently select words which mean one thing, but may suggest something else. Does Hamilton’s word choice suggest the same meanings as modern dictionaries? We simply don’t know for sure.

My point is that learning the dictionary definitions of Greek and Latin-based English words is of some value, but this approach doesn’t completely solve the problem of finding out what a word means in the context in which the author uses it. Plus, memorizing the definitions of the key Greek and Latin words would take an inordinate amount of time.

A much better way to learn challenging English vocabulary is to memorize, practice, and apply the Greek and Latin word parts.

Let me show you how efficient and effective these short-cuts to meaning can be with Hamilton’s  word, unequivocal. Unequivocal has four Latin word parts:

You already know the first word part, un, which means not; equi means equal; voc means call; and al means relating to

Simply rearrange these definitions to make more sense in English.

Unequivocal means “relating to not calling equal.”

Compare the word parts definition: “relating to not calling equal” to the dictionary definition: “Unequivocal means “leaving no doubt; unambiguous.” Both are helpful, but looking up the word unequivocal in the dictionary helped your students learn one word and you probably had to translate that dictionary definition for them. Plus, think of all the wasted class time, looking up all those academic words!

Learning the four word parts in unequivocal not only helps your students learn the one word; think about how many other words include the word parts used in unequivocal. I did the research for you, because I’m sure you’re just dying to know. The un prefix is part of a whopping 3,876 words; equi is used in 196 words, including such useful words as equilibrium, equivalent, and equitable; voc is found in 167 words, such as these word gems: vocalize, evocative, and invocation; and the al suffix is in 3,544. Amazing! Learning the four Latin word parts in unequivocal is powerful. If you knew these word part definitions, you would have short-cut clues to the meaning of many more challenging words‒a total of 7,783 to be exact (morewords.com)!

Of course, beyond our single word example, unequivocal, the reading research overwhelmingly confirms the value of learning Greek and Latin word parts, not just whole words.

In a key vocabulary study, Nagy and Scott found that [Display] “Knowing Greek and Latin word parts helps students recognize and gain clues to understanding of other words that use known affixes and roots” (Nagy & Scott, 2000).

Now, I don’t want to leave you the false impression that learning a bunch of new Greek and Latin word parts will solve all your students’ vocabulary challenges. And, just as with the whole-word definitions of important Greek and Latin words, it would be impractical to memorize all Greek and Latin word parts. But, some Greek and Latin word parts are used much more often than others. In fact, the 20 highest frequency Greek and Latin prefixes make up 97% of all Greek and Latin prefixes. With suffixes, the top four constitute 97%, as well.

Plus, although we got good clues regarding the meaning of unequivocal, it was not a perfect definition. This will be the case for many Greek and Latin-based English words. However, for other words, their Greek and Latin word parts will form perfect definitions, such as with distract. Dis means away from and tract means draw. To draw away from is a perfect definition for distract. The point I’m making about memorizing Greek and Latin word parts is that knowing some clues to the meaning of a challenging word are much better than having no clues, but when the Greek and Latin word parts form a perfect word definition, that’s a bonus!

So, if I’ve done my job, I’ve convinced you that we should “Teach Morphemes, Not Just Whole Words.” Now let’s get you the FREE tools you need to do so.

I’ve examined the best and most recent vocabulary research on Greek and Latin morphemes (See Greek and Latin Vocabulary Research to get links to all if you wish).

From the research I compiled a list of 60 Greek and Latin prefixes, roots, and suffixes (all morphemes, not the simple inflections) and combined them into 25 Greek and Latin Power Words to help students memorize each linked word part. Some of the 25 words have two and some have three word parts. For example, our first Power Word, unsubscribe has three word parts: un meaning not; sub meaning under; and scrib(e) meaning write. These three word parts appear in 5,083 English words. The 60 Greek and Latin morphemes appear in over 60,000 English words!

Next, I created the DUAL Word Parts Worksheet to help your students learn these in How to Memorize Greek and Latin Word Parts.

In addition to all these resources to teach the Greek and Latin morphemes, wouldn’t it be great to have all the resources to teach a comprehensive and balanced vocabulary program, completely aligned to the Common Core State Standards?

Common Core Vocabulary Toolkit Grades 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8

Common Core Vocabulary Toolkits

Pennington Publishing’s Grades 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 Common Core Vocabulary Toolkits include 56 worksheets, along with vocabulary study guides, and biweekly unit tests to help your students collaboratively practice and master these Common Core Standards:

  • Multiple Meaning Words and Context Clues (L.4.a.)
  • Greek and Latin Word Parts (L.4.a.)
  • Language Resources (L.4.c.d.)
  • Figures of Speech (L.5.a.)
  • Word Relationships (L.5.b.)
  • Connotations (L.5.c.)
  • Academic Language Words (L.6.0)

Also, check out my 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

Literacy Centers, Reading, Spelling/Vocabulary, Study Skills , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Greek and Latin “Dead” Languages

The "Dead" Languages of reek and Latin

Greek and Latin “Dead” Languages

Now, some of you might remember hearing that classical Greek and Latin are dead languages. Of corpse they aren’t! Sorry, I should have warned you in advance about my quirky sense of humor. Although it’s true that no one, other than scholars, speaks and writes in classical Greek or Latin today, both of the languages remain very much alive in their impact upon our culture and language.

In fact, these Greek and Latin zombies constitute more and more of our English language as new words in technology and the sciences are most often derivatives of these languages.

Let’s get started by proving to you that it’s the very-much-alive Greek and Latin that keeps you from understanding all the reading content in challenging texts.

You’re at the kitchen table on a Saturday morning with your phone and a cup of coffee. You’re in the middle of an interesting article, and the author quotes something from Alexander Hamilton’s Federalist Papers Number 1. The quotation reminds you that you placed the Federalist Papers on your reading bucket list after seeing the musical, Hamilton, last summer.

With caffeine-inspired motivation, you walk into the den to see if the Federalist Papers are in that set of beautifully bound Harvard Classics, collecting dust on your bookshelf. Eureka!

You pull out the book and open to this collection of 85 articles and essays written by Alexander HamiltonJames Madison, and John Jay to promote the ratification of the United States Constitution. You take a deep breath and read Hamilton’s first sentence:

After an unequivocal experience of the inefficacy of the subsisting Federal Government, you are called upon to deliberate on a new Constitution for the United States of America (Hamilton, Federalist Number 1).

Now, most of us would stop right there after the first sentence and carefully place the Harvard Classic back on the bookshelf where it belongs. Why so? It’s not the order of the words that’s confusing; it’s not the phonics and sight words (you could, no doubt, pronounce all the words); it’s not a lack of knowledge about the historical context; it’s not that the words are archaic; and, most importantly, it’s not what the author means that’s hard to grasp. It’s the Greek and Latin that interferes with our understanding. In this sense, Greek and Latin are very much alive!

Read that sentence one more time, and pick out the words that are most challenging for you:

After an unequivocal experience of the inefficacy of the subsisting Federal Government, you are called upon to deliberate on a new Constitution for the United States of America (Hamilton, Federalist Number 1).

Hamilton was a self-educated man and he loved his Latin! Eight of the words in this single sentence are Latin derivations. I’ve highlighted them in red. And one, Government, derives from classical Greek through the French language.

After an unequivocal experience of the inefficacy of the subsisting Federal Government, you are called upon to deliberate on a new Constitution for the United States of America (Hamilton, Federalist Number 1).

Let’s take a look at one more challenging sentence. This one is loaded with classical Greek. See if you can pick out the Greek words as you read. Hint: Pick out the tough words. Again, it’s the Greek and Latin derivations that make up most of the challenging English words.

Thomas Jefferson’s views on democracy were greeted with widespread cynicism, sarcasm, and even panic by European rulers.

Jefferson was fluent in both Classical (scholarly) and Koine (the common tongue) Greek! He even published his own translation of the New Testament (which was largely written in Koine Greek). Five of the words in this single sentence are Latin derivations. I’ve highlighted them in red.

Thomas Jefferson’s views on democracy were greeted with widespread cynicism, sarcasm, and even panic by European rulers.

So now that I’ve proved that Greek and Latin aren’t the “dead” languages they seem to be, what’s the best way to learn the Greek and Latin we need to read challenging English text?

Not by teaching lists of Greek and Latin SAT or ACT words; instead, Teach Morphemes, Not Academic Words, using my 25 Greek and Latin Power Words, and my DUAL Word Parts Worksheet to learn How to Memorize Greek and Latin Word Parts.

Wouldn’t it be great to have the Greek and Latin instructional resources to learn and teach these vocabulary short-cuts?

Common Core Vocabulary Toolkit Grades 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8

Common Core Vocabulary Toolkits

Pennington Publishing’s Grades 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 Common Core Vocabulary Toolkits include 56 worksheets, along with vocabulary study guides, and biweekly unit tests to help your students collaboratively practice and master these Common Core Standards:Multiple Meaning Words and Context Clues (L.4.a.)

  • Greek and Latin Word Parts (L.4.a.)
  • Language Resources (L.4.c.d.)
  • Figures of Speech (L.5.a.)
  • Word Relationships (L.5.b.)
  • Connotations (L.5.c.)
  • Academic Language Words (L.6.0)

Also, check out my Vocabulary Academic Literacy Centers, and our Grammar, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary BUNDLES.

Literacy Centers, Reading, Spelling/Vocabulary, Study Skills , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

How to Memorize Greek and Latin Word Parts

Greek and Latin Word Parts

How to Memorize Greek and Latin Word Parts

In my related article, “Teach Morphemes, Not Academic Words,” I demonstrated why learning Greek and Latin morphemes (meaning-based word parts) is far more effective and efficient than learning whole words. However, the best way to learn the 60 highest frequency prefixes, roots, and suffixes is in the context of my 25 Greek and Latin Power Words. These 25 Power Words combine the 60 word parts into memorable associations.

To imprint these 60 word parts into our long-term memories, we need to take advantage of the way our brains are hard-wired. Our brains connect new input to previously learned input through a memory process we know as association.

You see, linking one thing to another can provide a memorable association. Once the association has been well-established, knowing one thing prompts the memory of the other.

That’s how we will learn the 60 Greek and Latin word parts‒through association. Each of the 25 Greek and Latin Power Words links two or three word parts to form a memorable association.

Let’s apply a few suggestions from memory research to help us create these associations.

4 Tips from Memory Research

  1. Learn it right the first time. The better a word part is originally learned and the better the two or three word parts are associated within the word, the more you will store in your long-term memory.
  2. People start forgetting immediately after learning, so make a conscious effort to rehearse the word parts and their definitions immediately after memorization. Information practiced immediately is retained. After the first few hours, the forgetting cycle kicks in.
  3. People remember smaller chunks of information that are rehearsed frequently. Short study periods with small amounts of learning each day produces better retention than cramming.
  4. People remember information best when that information is organized in a structured manner.

To memorize the 25 Greek and Latin Power Words in a structured manner, I’ve created a helpful FREE resource, titled the DUAL Word Parts Worksheet (at the end of this article), for you to download and print.

The DUAL Word Parts Worksheet

The DUAL Word Parts Worksheet

DUAL Word Parts Worksheet

The DUAL Word Parts Worksheet provides a structured approach to learning new vocabulary. Instead of rote memorization, which stores information only in the short-term memory, the worksheet will guide you with in-depth memorization, practice, and application to help you store this new vocabulary in your long-term memory. The DUAL Word Parts Worksheet serves a dual purpose: 1. To learn the 60 high frequency Greek and Latin word parts and 2. To associate these definitions with the 25 Greek and Latin Power Words in which they appear.

DUAL is an acronym, which stands for Define, Use, Apply, and Look.

I’ll teach you how to use the DUAL Word Parts Worksheet as we learn the first of our 25 Greek and Latin Power Words, unsubscribe. If you want the DUAL Word Parts Worksheet, it’s yours for FREE at the end of the article.

Our first step on the worksheet is the D, as in define. We need to define the word parts by memorizing each of their meanings.

Note that on your worksheet, the first column lists the Greek and Latin Power Word, unsubscribe; the second column lists the word parts, un, sub, and scrib(e); and the third column provides the word part definitions as not, under, and write.

By the way, both un and sub are prefixes and scrib(e) is a root. However, for our purposes we don’t need to identify which word parts are prefixes, roots, and suffixes, nor do we need to identify their parts of speech, nor do we need to know from which language each word part derives. Now, at this moment, classical scholars are all shaking their collective heads in dismay. But, as Winnie the Pooh might have said, “So much to remember rather muddles my thinking.”

Please note that the (e) at the end of scrib(e). The parentheses indicate a letter added to the word part to help with English pronunciation. In this case, the silent final e makes the preceding vowel a long /i/ sound. Sometimes a letter is dropped from a Greek and Latin word part to connect to another word part. Also, notice that there is no suffix in unsubscribe.

Take a moment to study the content in the first three columns: unsubscribeun, sub, scribenot, under, and write.

Now, let’s use the power of association to link the word parts together.

  • Linking un and sub into “unsub” means not under in unsubscribe.
  • Linking sub and scribe into “subscribe means under write in unsubscribe.
  • Linking these paired word parts joins un, sub, and scribe into “unsubscribe,” which means not under write in unsubscribe.

Now, that’s a memorable chain of word part associations! As our memory tip suggested, “We’ve learned it right the first time.”

Our second step on the DUAL Word Parts Worksheet is the U, as in use. We need to use the word parts and their definitions in memorable contexts.

Use each memorized word part in a simple, memorable, and concrete anchor word, and write this word in the fourth column of your worksheet. A good anchor word for the un word part is untie. It’s simple, memorable, and concrete, not abstract. For un, write the anchor word, untie, in the space provided.

Next, use that anchor word in a brief context clue sentence with surrounding word clues which show the meaning of that anchor word. Use my SALE Context Clues acronym (S for synonym, A for antonym, L for logic, or E for example) to prompt your use of surrounding word clues.

Write the following context clue sentence for the first anchor word, untie, in the fifth column: “I had to untie my shoelaces to slip off my shoes.”

Now provide your own anchor words and context clue sentences for sub and scribe in the fourth and fifth columns.

Our third step on the DUAL Word Parts Worksheet is the A, as in associate. We need to associate our anchor words to Related Words we already know, which feature our focus word parts.

For my untie anchor word, I might write these Related Words: unworthy and unmarried in the sixth column.

Now write a few Related Words you already known for your sub and scribe anchor words in that sixth column.

Our fourth and last step on the DUAL Word Parts Worksheet is the L, as in look. We need to look for the newly learned word parts in everything we hear and in everything we read. Also, look for ways to use these word parts in your speech and writing. Remember our memory tip: “People remember smaller chunks of information that are rehearsed frequently.”

Dr. Kevin Flanigan, contributing author to Vocabulary Their Way calls this look step, “Turning on your morphological radar.” Dr. Flanigan suggests that the more we look at challenging words, by their structural components, rather than as whole words, the more attuned we will become to identifying the morphemes, which are the meaning-based word parts we are learning.

So, turn on your “morphological radar” and start looking for the word parts: un, sub, and scribe in everything you listen to and read.

Whew! It’s time to pat yourself on the back. You’ve just placed the three word parts: un, sub, and scribe into your long-term memory. You won’t forget these short-cuts which unlock the meanings of challenging words. And what’s more… these three word parts are found in 5,083 words. That’s 5,083 words. Awesome!

Plus, you’ve learned how to use the four steps of the the DUAL Word Parts Worksheet to memorize, practice, and apply the rest of the 25 Greek and Latin Power Words. I suggest you tackle one per day. Teachers may wish to tackle one or two per week with their students. Remember our memory tip: “Short study periods with small amounts of learning each day produces better retention than cramming.” And keep rehearsing the old word parts as you learn the new ones.

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 DUAL Word Parts Worksheet FREE Resource:

Literacy Centers, Reading, Spelling/Vocabulary, Study Skills , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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.

—————————————————

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:

Reading, Spelling/Vocabulary, Study Skills, Writing , , , , , , , , , ,

25 Greek and Latin Power Words

15 Power Words to Teach Greek and Latin Word Parts

15 Power Words

A number of years ago, I developed a list of 15 Power Words to Teach Greek and Latin Prefixes and Roots, which combined many of the most commonly used prefixes and roots. I estimated that these word parts were found in at least 15,000 words in our unabridged English dictionaries. Elementary teachers found this list to be a helpful resource to narrow down which word parts to teach, and which ones not to teach. I included the 15 Power Words in my popular grades 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 Common Core Vocabulary Toolkits and featured this list in numerous articles on this Pennington Publishing Blog. Yes, you are welcome to download the 15 Power Words for free. I would especially recommend the words on this list and the 32 high frequency prefixes and roots found within the 15 Power Words for grades 2–5 students.

Research Background

As I began research on reading comprehension for my upcoming 2019 book, How to Improve Your Reading Comprehension, I found an additional research study [Wei, Z., 2011] on high frequency productive Greek and Latin roots, which narrowed down previous research-based lists. Plus, Wei’s dual approach to both utility and frequency was useful for my target audience: English-language arts and reading intervention teachers and their students.

Rationale and Purpose

Teachers and students are all about pragmatic tools. High utility and high frequency vocabulary words give them the most bang for the buck. Teachers want to teach both the high utility Tier 2 academic vocabulary and the the high frequency Greek and Latin prefixes, roots, and suffixes. My 25 Greek and Latin Power Words provide both. I decided to update and expand my 15 Power Words model to include both the highest utility and the highest frequency Greek and Latin prefixes, roots, and suffixes for not only elementary, but also middle school, high school, college, and post-college students of our English language. I wound up with the 25 Greek and Latin Power Words.

Methodology

I compared the results from the most recent and well-regarded vocabulary research studies on high frequency Greek and Latin word parts, including the additional study by Dr. Zheng Wei, mentioned above. From the five best Greek and Latin word lists cited in these studies, I chose the 60 highest frequency prefixes, roots, and suffixes. I then spent far too many hours trying to replicate my original 15 Power Words model, which has 32 high frequency prefixes and roots, with my now expanded list of 60 word parts. The chunking of two or three word parts into one academic language word applies time-tested association memory research. We simply remember linked items better than we remember items in isolation.

25 Greek and Latin Power Words by Pennington Publishing

25 Greek and Latin Power Words © 2018 Pennington Publishing

Results: The 25 Greek and Latin Power Words

At last, the list of 25 Greek and Latin Power Words (including all 60 highest frequency Greek and Latin prefixes, roots, and meaning-based suffixes) came together. I used the More Words site to check the number of words in which each of these 60 word parts appear in the English language. The results were staggering: The 60 word parts are found in over 60,000 words, including their inflections (a conservative total). With our English lexicon of about 600,000 words, these 60 word parts constitute 10% of the words in our language. With a middle school student’s average vocabulary of 25,000 words and a college-educated adult’s average vocabulary of 60,000 words, the 25 Greek and Latin Power Words can have a significant impact on improving reading vocabulary for all ages.

Format

  • Here’s the format of the one-page 25 Greek and Latin Power Words:
  • 25 Tier 2 Academic Language Power Words Divided by Morphemes (meaning-based word parts)
  • Two or Three Word Parts for Each Word with Concise Definitions
  • Word Counts for Each Word Part
  • Research Studies
25 Greek and Latin Power Words with 60 Word Parts

25 Greek and Latin Power Words © 2018 Pennington Publishing

I list the five research studies, from which the 60 Greek and Latin word parts were compiled at the bottom of the word list:

Call to Action

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.

Get the 25 Greek and Latin Power Words FREE Resource:

Literacy Centers, Reading, Spelling/Vocabulary, Study Skills, Writing , , , , , , , ,

Why Study Greek and Latin

“Aargh! I can’t make sense of what this author is saying. Her vocabulary is out of control! To understand this, I’d have to look up every other word in the dictionary. Do you follow what she’s saying?”

Αυτά μου φαίνονται Ελληνικά”

“So what does that mean?”

“It means, ‘It’s all Greek to me’ in Greek.”

We’ve used that expression in English for centuries to describe something we hear or read that we don’t understand. Even Shakespeare referenced the saying in Act 1 Scene 2 of his Tragedy of Julius Caesar.

Of course, the Greeks would never say “It’s all Greek to me.” After all, it is their language. But they do use a similar figure of speech. A Greek would say, “Αυτά μου φαίνονται κινέζικα,” or “This seems Chinese to me.”

When you sit down to read an article, a technical document, or a book, does the language the author uses seem “All Greek (or Latin) to you”? If so, you’re not alone, and you’re not illiterate. Often, reading English text does seem like reading a foreign language. And this makes perfect sense, because so much of English does derive from other languages.

Greek and Latin Word Parts

Why Study Greek and Latin

Why Should We Study Greek and Latin?

Before I answer this question, let me answer a few challenges to my argument.

Challenge: Aren’t both Latin and Classical Greek dead languages? Latin is not spoken or written language today. Additionally, the Greek that you suggest we learn is also somewhat of a dead language in that the classic Greek which English borrows from is not the same as the modern Greek written and spoken today.

Answer: Both Latin and Classical Greek remain alive today in the sense of their relevance and connection to vocabulary, grammar, and literature.

Challenge: Why waste time studying Greek and Latin when we could be memorizing more English words?

Answer: Those wishing to improve their vocabularies don’t have to enroll in a Rosetta Stone course on conversational Greek or taking a two-year online course on Latin. Learning high frequency and high utility Greek and Latin word parts is the most efficient way to quickly increase one’s advanced English vocabulary. Plus, you already know quite a lot of the meanings of these word parts through a lifetime of listening and reading experience. Building on a foundation is so much easier than starting from scratch.

Challenge: I’ve heard that the Greek and Latin word parts aren’t reliable clues to meaning. What meant one thing 2,000 years ago does not always mean the same to us in the Twenty-First Century.

Answer: You are correct that some Greek and Latin word parts can lead you astray. Not every Greek and Latin word part meaning is a reliable clue to meaning. Some word parts have multiple-meanings. For example, in can serve as a positive prefix, meaning in or into, as in inviting or invaluable. However, in can also serve as a negative prefix, meaning not as in invisible or incoherent. In other cases, a Greek word part which sounds and is spelled exactly like a Latin word part will mean something quite different. Additionally, besides their denotative (or dictionary) meanings, Greek and Latin word parts have their nuances and connotations.

But these drawbacks are the same for every language, including English. Understanding what authors mean in their word choices is sometimes as much art as it is science. Good reading comprehension always involves problem-solving. The bottom line is that learning the high frequency and high efficiency Greek and Latin word parts will make a significant improvement in your vocabulary.

Now that I’ve addressed some of the common complaints and reservations about studying Greek and Latin to improve one’s English vocabulary, let’s provide the justification for Why Should We Study Greek and Latin?

1. Sheer Numbers

Greek and Latin have added more affixes (prefixes and suffixes) and roots than all other languages combined. In fact, over 50% of the words in college level English dictionaries have a least one Greek or Latin prefix, root, or suffix. If half of our 800,000-word lexicon, in other words, our total English vocabulary is Greek or Latin-based, it certainly makes sense to pay some attention to these languages.

2. Accuracy and Reliability

Because both ancient Greek and Latin are so well-preserved in literature, the meanings of most words and word parts remain remarkably consistent as they are used as part of the English language. Even the spellings of these prefixes, roots, and suffixes are consistent and predictable (Rasinski & Padak, 2001; Bear, Invernizzi, Templeton & Johnston, 2000).

3. Applicability

According to one study, “Knowing Greek and Latin word parts helps students recognize and gain clues to understanding of other words that use known affixes and roots” (Nagy & Scott, 2000).

In this same study, the authors found that learning Greek and Latin roots gives students the ability to learn many new words independently by helping them make connections among words and word families that are semantically related (Nagy & Scott, 2000).

4. Efficiency

“One Latin or Greek root or affix (word pattern) aids understanding (as well as decoding and encoding) of 20 or more English words” (Nagy & Scott, 2000).

High frequency Greek and Latin prefixes, suffixes, and roots provide useful short-cuts to enhancing one’s speaking and reading vocabulary in English. For example, knowing the word parts in just 15 words will unlock clues to meaning for thousands of words. The list is in your FREE download at the end of this article.

Knowing even one Greek or Latin word part in an unknown word can help a reader problem-solve not only the word in which it appears, but also other words in the same sentence.

For example, if you know that contra means against, you can probably guess what contradictory means and what yontuke means in this sentence:

The defendant provided contradictory testimony in which he first claimed that his stolen painting was worth a fortune, but later referred to that same painting as a yontuke copy.

Yes, yontuke means cheap; I know, because I made up the word. But you know its meaning, too, because knowing the meaning of the one word part, contra, not only helped you understand the meaning of contradictory, but also clued you into the meaning of another unknown word in the sentence, yontuke. Knowing some Greek and Latin word parts can make all the difference in improving your reading comprehension.

5. Cultural Impact

Another reason why we should study Greek and Latin is because of their cultural influence. The impact of Greek and Roman philosophy, literature, and science on Western Civilization has been profound. Language is part of culture. We can’t divorce our words from our culture.

For example, to understand these words: bees knees, speakeasy, and flappers we would have to know a bit about the Roaring 20’s Jazz Age. To understand dope, homies, and skrrt, we would have to know a bit about hip hop culture. To understand this dialogue, you’d have to know a bit about the cultural language patterns of Jeff Foxworthy’s Rednecks:

If’n y’all don’t stop fat’n I’m comin’ down there to school you young’uns.

Dun’t need no hep. Pap dun got hisself a gubmint job.

Well I’ll be a monkey’s uncle! He getn’ too big for his own britches.

Ah, I ain’t unnerstand nuthin’ you sed…must be some farn talk. I best skedaddle.

(Adapted from YourDictionary definitions and usage example. Copyright © 2018 by LoveToKnow Corp)

6. Studying Greek and Latin Makes You Smarter

Take any college-admission test preparation class for the SAT, ACT, LSAT, MedCaT, etc. and the instructor will stress the memorization of Greek and Latin word parts. IQ tests are rarely administered these days, but they are largely divided into language and reasoning. You guessed it… the language consists of academic words. And Greek and Latin are the primary source of academic language.

The research-based Academic Word List is chiefly based upon Greek and Latin word parts. This list of generalizable Tier 2 words is not domain or content-specific. These words appear most frequently in challenging text, including textbooks, articles, bucket list novels, and technical documents. The authors of the Common Core State Standards recommend studying these Tier 2 words. Studying a bit of Greek and Latin will give you access to the world of ideas and enhance both your reading comprehension. Additionally, the words you speak will gain the precision of meaning necessary for academic discussion.

Wouldn’t it be great to have the Greek and Latin instructional resources to learn and teach these vocabulary short-cuts?

Common Core Vocabulary Toolkit Grades 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8

Common Core Vocabulary Toolkits

Pennington Publishing’s Grades 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 Common Core Vocabulary Toolkits include 56 worksheets, along with vocabulary study guides, and biweekly unit tests to help your students collaboratively practice and master these Common Core Standards:

    • Multiple Meaning Words and Context Clues (L.4.a.)
    • Greek and Latin Word Parts (L.4.a.)
    • Language Resources (L.4.c.d.)
    • Figures of Speech (L.5.a.)
    • Word Relationships (L.5.b.)
    • Connotations (L.5.c.)
    • Academic Language Words (L.6.0)

Years ago I created a list of 15 Power Words with these types of associations for the most common Greek and Latin affixes and roots. The word parts associated in this list comprise word parts found in over 15,000 words. Well worth teaching your students, I would say.

Get the 15 Power Words FREE Resource:

My Grades 4−8 Common Core Vocabulary Toolkits pair prefixes, roots, and suffixes to maximize learning. Each grade-level curriculum includes some great interactive games. Enter discount code 3716 and get 10% off your purchase price.

Literacy Centers, Reading, Spelling/Vocabulary, Study Skills, Writing , , , , , , , , , , ,