Happy Wednesday Teachers of Emergent Bilinguals! If you haven’t seen my September series on how to teach morphology, it’s right here waiting for you to use in your classroom: We’ve talked base words. We’ve talked prefixes and suffixes. It’s time to talk roots so we can inform and transform your students’ vocabulary!
what’s a root?
A root is a type of morpheme, or the smallest meaningful part of a word that can’t be broken down any further. English is made up of roots from Anglo-Saxon, Latin, and Greek. Let’s look at the word transformation. We can break this word down into three morphemes:
- a prefix trans- meaning ‘across’;
- a suffix -a-tion (note the connective ‘a’ that we stick in to break up the consonants);
- and a root, form, from the Latin meaning ‘to form, to shape’. In this case, form is a word in and of itself. However, roots are often not independent words, for example struct meaning ‘build’ in construct, instruct, destruct, etc.
- Roots are morphemes that we can attach prefixes and suffixes to in order to create new, but related, words. That’s why morphology means ‘to form, to shape’.
how do roots inform and transform your students’ vocabulary?
ok, do now: write down all the words you can think of with the root form besides inform, transform, and reform.
How many did you come up with? Here’s a list:
The value of teaching roots is obvious: When students understand that vocabulary is a network of word families that sound alike, and mean similar things, it informs and transforms their vocabulary!
It informs their vocabulary knowledge because they are able to recognize new words based on the root. They are also able to connect words they may already know (in English and their Home Language) to their new-found understanding.
And it transforms their vocabulary knowledge because it literally doubles or triples the number of words they are able to recognize as readers.
ok, which roots should i teach?
We want to start with ‘transparent’ roots. These are roots that students can gleam the meaning from right away. Form is the perfect example. It means ‘to form, shape’ and we can easily understand its core meaning in the different versions of the word.
A group of transparent roots you can start with are:
struct to build construct, instruct, destruction
port to carry transport, import, export
rupt to break or burst erupt, interrupt, disrupt
ject to throw eject, project, inject
tract to drag or pull tractor, retract, detract from
script/scrib to write description, inscribe, prescribe
spect to look inspect, spectator, suspect
aud to hear auditorium, audible
dict to say dictate, contradict
But how, when I have little time?
Upper grades math, science, and social studies teachers: stick to your content specific vocabulary. Have students break down important words by prefix, root, and suffix. Example: migr means ‘to move’. Show me how we can break down the words immigrant, migration, and emigrate. How does the meaning ‘to move’ change in each word, based on the prefix and/or suffix? Make students read aloud and underline the words, have them use it in a sentence. Create a classroom word wall of roots that students regularly work on.
ELA/ENL teachers: Can we please have 10-20 minutes of word work twice a week? PLEEEEEEAAASE. Even just once a week would be better than nothing. Students need targeted and repeated practice with recognizing word parts in order to transform their vocabulary. Here is a Google Slides mini-lesson to copy and use in your classroom! Extend these concepts into Close Reading, i.e., when you come across a word that has that root in it, prompt students to recognize it in text.
Lower grades: Students can gain awareness of word parts orally and learn to take new vocabulary apart by prefix, root or base word, and suffix. Have them tap out each word part on their arms or desks!
thanks for checking in.
Please comment below with questions! See you next week!