By Amber Rain Chandler
When you think of Greek and Latin roots, you think high student engagement, right?
No? Yep, me neither. However, year after year I have conversations with other teachers both in my district and elsewhere about the vocabulary deficit and the dramatic impact it is having on literacy across the board.
In this excerpt from David Shenk’s The Genius in All of Us: Insights Into Genetics, Talent, and IQ in The Atlantic, the 32 million-word gap between kindergarteners who are affluent and those who live in poverty reminds us all that words are the currency of scholastic success.
This year, I am going to do something about it, and yes, Greek and Latin roots are going to rock.
They were too polite to yawn
I had the opportunity to spend three days at AFT’s Summer Academy in Maryland as a part of a Resource Development Team, and there I created Word Study lessons that will help my 8th grade students learn how words are formed while I am addressing CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.8.4.b: “Use common, grade-appropriate Greek or Latin affixes and roots as clues to the meaning of a word (e.g., precede, recede, secede).”
Even as I introduced myself and my project, the other participants were likely stifling a collective yawn, though they were polite enough to hide it from me. Yet, I forged on. I knew I could create Word Study days that were engaging, but I just needed to find the right approach.
Lots of media, plenty of collaboration
Here were my guiding principles as I developed the resources for my ELA classroom:
1) Media-Rich – videos, podcasts, and interactive experiences at my Smartboard and on Quizlet are a must. This is admittedly a dry topic, but at least I’ll be communicating in the trusted medium of Digital Natives.
2) Collaborative – I call it “Table Talk,” but my students will be collectively creating meanings and sharing their prior knowledge at key moments during the lessons. My hope is that not only will my students learn the new words that I introduce, but they will also listen to their peers’ language.
3) Rigorous – I’m going to tell it like it is here and in my classroom this fall. This isn’t easy, and I don’t want to pretend it is. It requires memorization, but I am providing the input strategies and sharing the interactive PowerPoints on my website for students to review and practice.
Every Monday is going to be a Word Study day. Videos are embedded in the PowerPoints introducing students to concepts of language development and acquisition itself. The first week’s video is “Why Is There a ‘B’ in Doubt?”, a short Ted-Ed video explaining how words change over time.
For most of my students, it will be the first time they have been exposed to words in this way. Ne dubitaris. We will rock!
Have you dared to go where many ELA teachers fear to tread? If so, we’d love to hear how you approach word study, and yes, Greek and Latin roots!
Feature image: Jamylle Brewton
Amber Rain Chandler teaches English Language Arts at Frontier Middle School in Hamburg, NY, a suburb of Buffalo. A certified School Building Leader, Amber also teaches Methods in English Teaching at Medaille College and leads staff development on Differentiation for the Southtown Teachers Center. She writes guest articles for MiddleWeb and blogs at her own website. Follow her on Twitter @msamberchandler.