Quick and Easy Guide to teaching Greek and Latin Roots

picture of tree with roots with a blue bar across the middle reading teaching greek and latin roots

We all know that teaching vocabulary can be a challenge. You want your students to extend their knowledge of English and understand the nuances of words they may encounter in their everyday life or in other classes. One way to do this is by teaching students Greek and Latin roots words. 

In addition, many state standards include using context clues to identify unknown words. If students have a list of Greek and Latin roots under their belt, it’ll be even easier for them to answer those exam questions.

Teaching Greek and Latin roots can help your students improve their understanding of vocabulary and increase fluency. Plus, learning these root words helps students increase retention and boost analytical thinking (connation anyone?). Your students can also see a spike in their test scores (Because let’s be honest: like it or not, many of us are in positions were those almighty test scores are everything)

A few years ago, I taught at a sports academy. One of my responsibilities was teaching a class called Learning Path, which was basically a study hall/class where students received more targeted instruction based on their reading levels. In one of these classes, I had pretty much all international students. I realized that one of the best ways to increase their vocabulary was to teach them common Greek and Latin roots. Ideally, they’d be able to take this knowledge and apply it to new words in the texts we read in our English class. 

Ready to get started with introducing Greek and Latin roots in your classroom? Keep reading for the ultimate  quick guide to teaching Greek and Latin roots. 

What are Greek and latin roots?

Before you jump into teaching Greek and Latin roots, it’s important that your students know what roots are. 

A root is a basic or central part of something, which is often the beginning point of a word. It’s the part of a word that is left when all the suffixes, prefixes, and other modifications have been taken away. Many English words can be traced back to Greek, Latin, and/or French. Knowing these root words will help students when they inevitably come across unfamiliar vocabulary – whether it’s during class or recreational reading. 

How to teach greek and latin roots

I’m a big believer in repetition. When teaching the class mentioned earlier, we followed the same routine/format. 

Every class period (which was once a week), we would review that week’s list. Students completed their copy of notes as I reviewed the presentation. Each note page contained: 

    • Definition
    • Illustration of one word using the root
    • Original sentence
    • Examples from presentation 
    • Space for students to come up with their own example
      • I allowed them to Google this if they were struggling. It led to some interesting finds and introduced everyone to new words. 

After the notes were completed, students completed an exercise using the words. The exercises rotated based on the list. Sometimes it was a crossword puzzle. Sometimes a word scramble or cryptogram. Other times students had to match words and definitions, identify words based on their knowledge of the roots, and write a paragraph

So there you have it. My simple process for teaching Greek and Latin roots. 

Want to try out my Greek and Latin roots unit? Subscribe to the newsletter and receive the first list of 5 Greek and Latin roots for free! Also, be the first to know about new resources and blog posts.

Ready to add Greek and Latin roots to your classroom? Check out the Greek and Latin Roots Unit for High School for a low-prep, done-for-you unit with a presentation, student notes, exercises, and quizzes. 

Looking for more help? Check out these other grammar and vocabulary resources for high school. 

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