5 Simple & Useful Steps to Teach Greek and Latin Roots

Are you tired of hearing groans from your students when you tell them it’s vocabulary time? Do you constantly see students learn words for a test but forget them immediately after? If you want to make vocabulary lessons more fun for your students and help them retain the words they learn, you’re in the right place. I will show you how to teach Greek and Latin roots with my vocabulary units and engage students in the lessons. Keep reading to learn more.

Teaching students prefixes, suffixes, and base words helps them deduct the meaning of new words they come across in their reading, but vocabulary with Greek and Latin roots doesn’t have to be boring! Find more fun and effective ways to teach vocabulary with this 5-step process.

Greek and Latin Roots

Step One: Introduce the Greek and Latin Root Words

This part of the vocabulary lesson is teacher-led, but that doesn’t mean you have to stand up in front of the classroom and lecture. Make this portion of the lesson engaging and exciting for the students by including them in a conversation to teach them. Here’s a simple lesson flow I like to follow to find out what students already know about the words we are discussing.

  • Read it & Ask – Have you heard this word before? What do you think it means?
  • Definition – Share the official definition only after students have tried their own.
  • Examples – Use it in a sentence. Ask students to provide more examples.
  • Photos – Share real photos as often as you can.

Step Two: Define the Greek and Latin Root Words

The rest of the steps are student-led. This allows students to take ownership of their learning, and it allows the teacher to work with small groups on new words and skills they need assistance with.

In this step, students will be defining the meaning of the root word they are working with. Do you remember the days of writing down long definitions from a textbook? Simply copying definitions onto notebook paper isn’t enough. Writing definitions down, though, is important, and I’ll tell you why. Writing things down is important because it improves:

  • Motor Skills
  • Cognitive Processing
  • Touch Sensation
  • Visual Perception

The combination of all four of these things does something in our brain to help us remember what we are writing. While this is helpful, it’s not enough. Instead, have students write the definition of the greek roots in their own words. This helps them learn the word because it allows them to process the word in a deeper manner and use critical thinking while making their own definition. It also lets them get creative with their definition and trigger long-term memory. Taking ownership of the definitions of these common roots will help students remember the words more consistently.

One way to get them thinking more creatively is to ask students to write a definition in no more than # words or write their own definition in exactly # words. I like to give them the number 7 with 4th and 5th graders because it’s the perfect number for the word meanings they are working with. Obviously, play with this number if you think they will need more.

Step Three: Draw the Vocabulary Words

I know this may seem a little childish for our upper elementary students, but it’s been shown that using a creative element while working through a list of words helps trigger that long-term memory again. Students don’t have to draw full-blown images, there are some other great ideas that are more suited for older students. Try these:

  • Sketch it out – Draw a simple illustration for the word and make a picture dictionary
  • Graphic Organizers – Great for students who don’t like to draw
  • Find a photo – Use safe search engines to allow students to locate photos

Another great visual representation of the list of roots is a Personal Dictionary! In this dictionary, students can define their own words and create a small visual representation of the word. My Greek and Latin Roots units have the words already typed out, OR you can use a blank template to fill in your own words depending on the grade level.

Greek and Latin Root Words

Step Four: Give Students Plenty of Opportunities to Practice Greek and Latin Roots Word Lists

Provide students with multiple opportunities to practice their vocabulary words as well as the Greek and Latin Roots within them. This can be done by giving whole group instruction, sending practice material home for homework, in vocabulary centers, or working with students in small groups. The more exposure the students have to the new words they are learning, the better off they will be. Try to choose a wide variety of resources so all of your students can benefit from the instruction and feel confident with the new vocabulary words.

Here are some quick and easy Low-Prep Practice Activities that are perfect for independent practice:

  • Tactile – Write shade of meaning on paint chips
  • Written – Create and complete a Frayer model
  • Creative – Write an acrostic poem describing or defining the word
  • Use Tech – Create a Google Slide for each word

Bonus points: Encourage students to identify the words they are struggling with and ask them to do extra work on those words to understand the meaning of the word. Give them that ownership and challenge them to better their own learning.

Use these Vocabulary Activities to deepen your students’ understanding of greek word roots and help the word meanings stick in their minds.

Step Five: Play With the Vocabulary Words

This is a fun way to get students working in groups and conversing with their peers. Games give us a really good opportunity to practice academic words and plenty of other content.

Playing Vocabulary Games lowers the affective filter that makes tasks seem too difficult. Students are more likely to engage and have fun while using spontaneous vocabulary. They offer challenges that are difficult enough to learn from and easy enough to enjoy. The games are less teacher-dependent, letting students take ownership and internalize their learning!

A study even showed that when students played games with their vocabulary words, they scored 49% higher on their assessments compared to a control group who did not play games.

Easy Vocabulary Game Ideas:

  • Splat – Place word cards on the board, read a definition, and have students swat the word.
  • Pictionary – Students work in teams. One student draws a word while the rest of the team tries to guess it.
  • Scavenger hunt – Students look through magazines or newspapers and race to find examples of the word in pictures or text.
  • Trashketball – AKA trashcan basketball. Divide into teams and have them answer questions. Correct answers get to throw a ball or wad of paper in the bin.
  • Fishbowl – Form two circles. Inside the circle, students read a definition, and outside the circle a student names the word. Rotate after each word.
  • Heads up – Make a stack of word cards. One student holds a card up to their forehead and the rest of the team calls out clues until the student guesses the word.

How Do I Fit Greek and Latin Roots Into My Schedule?

There’s only so much time in the day, but it can be done. Here is a sample schedule of how I have found it works!

Greek and Latin Roots
  • Monday – The teacher introduces new words, and the students complete a word sort
  • Tuesday – The students create a personal dictionary to define high frequency Greek words in their own words and draw an image to represent each.
  • Wednesday – Students complete independent practice activities.
  • Thursday – Students play vocabulary games in a center or with partners.
  • Friday – Teacher and students assess the week’s learning.

When assessing, I often include Greek or Latin Roots from previous weeks. This motivates students to retain their knowledge of words from earlier in the year. The English language is complex, but vocabulary instruction like this will greatly improve how well students learn and increase their reading comprehension skills with larger pieces of text.

If you need help implementing Greek and Latin word parts activities, to grab my Vocabulary Bundles for grades 3-6 for a full year of weekly activities. Each week includes:

  • 5-10 words per week with a common morpheme (roots, prefixes, & suffixes)
  • Word wall cards
  • Anchor charts
  • Games
  • Weekly practice activities
  • Assessments

These will be the building blocks for your students’ understanding of the root of a word. Have fun teaching your students Greek and Latin Roots vocabulary a fun way!

Greek and Latin Roots

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