There is a plethora of reasons to teach Greek and Latin roots, and myriad ways to do it! This school year I added an old instructional stand-by to my vocabulary development program: worksheets! I give them as homework after introducing the roots via an interactive notebook activity. These vocabulary worksheets cover over 700 cross-curricular vocabulary words formed from more than 240 roots, prefixes, and suffixes.
Each worksheet is dedicated to a set of roots and affixes that are united by a common theme. For example, all the roots and affixes related to writing are grouped on one vocabulary worksheet. The different activities on the worksheets move students through the different levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy. Activities include fill-in-the-blank sentence completion; matching synonyms; writing sentences; annotating informational text; open-ended questions; matching pictures; and rewriting words in different forms.
Here students will choose a word to complete a sentence. Most of the sentences have some helpful context. Since the words and topics are likely familiar to the students, the goal of this section is to have students remember and apply their knowledge.
To adapt this activity for students with special needs, I reduce the number of sentences. Just highlight a sentence and delete it. The rest of the text resizes to fill the space. Another option is to write in the root ahead of time. For example, if the answer is “convoluted,” I would write –volut– in the blank.
Early-finishers can be tasked with labeling each word’s part of speech.
These vocabulary activities introduce words that are less familiar and more specialized. In most cases, students will match an unfamiliar word to a familiar one. A thesaurus or other reference tool is recommended.
Here students will use a vocabulary word in an original sentence. They can use a word from the word list or any word formed from the relevant roots. I like to require students to put context clues in sentences they write. Context clues force students to show that they understand the meaning of a vocabulary word. Consider these two examples:
- The taste of pepper in the pasta was very subtle.
- I could barely detect the subtle taste of pepper in the pasta.
Sentence number two has a context clue. The student has proven that they understand the meaning of the word subtle.
Sometimes, students with special needs really struggle with writing original sentences. (Others are total rock-stars at it!) If the pressure of creating or is too much, I will instead give them the option to define a word formed from the roots we are studying. For example, if the vocabulary worksheet covers the root salu-, I might tell a student to define the word salutation, making sure to explain how it relates to the meaning of the root (health). Or I might instruct them to define the word mediocre, making sure to include the word middle in their definition.
Another tip for early finishers, especially those who write ridiculously short sentences: add a “3.” after the “2.” and tell them to write another sentence.
Informational Text Annotation
The goal of this activity is to have students recognize and interpret roots as they read. Each activity has an informational text passage and a table of roots. The passages range in length from 100-200 words. Its like a scavenger hunt. Students highlight and tally roots as they decode the paragraph. What I like most about this activity is that it gets students into the habit of recognizing and decoding roots as they read.
To adapt this activity, you can reduce the number of roots students find in the informational text passages. For example, instead of being required to find every instance of the root meso in a passage about mesosaurus, students can just find and underline one instance. Alternatively, I can reduce the total number of roots students are required to find. For example, instead of being asked to find eight different roots in a passage, I can cut that number down to five. To do so, I just right-click in the row I want to delete and choose Delete Row.
The tables that accompany this activity contain a list of roots, their meaning, and a space to tally. To make this activity more challenging, you can delete the root or the meaning and require students to fill it in. This is especially useful to review roots that have been covered in previous lessons.
Matching Vocabulary Words to Pictures
This activity has its origins in my Greek and Latin Roots Mnemonic Unit and Word Wall. It’s tailored to visual learning. Students look at a picture and decide which vocabulary word should label it. More than one correct answer is possible in some cases.
Translating Words to Different Forms
For this activity, students translate the vocabulary words into different parts of speech. Take, for example, provocation, provoke, provocative, and provocatively. There you have a noun, a verb, an adjective, and an adverb. With this vocabulary worksheet activity, students identify and apply the different forms of a word by filling in a table.
Activities Unique to Specific Roots
Some roots present unique opportunities to explore aspects of the English language. The vocabulary worksheet for the root –log– has a special section for students to explore their knowledge of neologisms. Roots that mean bad and good, like dys- and eu-, present the opportunity for students to explore euphemisms and dysphemisms.
Suggestions to Extend the Vocabulary Worksheets
Assign follow-up questions.
This option is my favorite. Questions like these help students get a true sense of a word.
- Describe the relationship between genes and ethnicity.
- What’s the difference between idyllic and ideal?
- What’s the difference between invincible, invisible, and indivisible?
- Define fable, fabulist, and fabulous, and describe each word’s connection to the Latin root -fab-?
- The Latin root para means “near or beside.” Explain what a parable is in this context.
Add words to the word list.
By default, every word in a word list either completes a sentence, labels a picture, or both. By adding words to the word list, I make it harder for students to guess which word fills in a blank or matches a picture. It also gives them more words to choose from when writing sentences.
For example, the vocabulary worksheet with the theme of Distance has these words in the word bank:
By adding, say, telescope, ultimate, and parabola to the list, students have to work harder to complete the sentences.
Find more words formed from the roots under study.
Find additional words formed from the roots being studied. This option works best with roots that are very prevalent in the English language, like those that mean together (-com-, –col-, –con-, –sys-, –syl-, –sym-, etc). Have students brainstorm with each other or use a reference tool.