Since vocabulary study is, without argument, one of the most fundamental components literacy development and learning in any given field of study, it is necessary for students to acquire a method of confronting and conquering new, unknown, or complex words that is consistent and expedient! Traditional vocabulary study, however, often consists of students striving to memorize an array of definitions to words that are related to a story or to some sort of theme. They may remember the words and definitions for the duration of the reading of the story or studying the theme, but in the long run, retention of definitions to words “learned” through memorizing, unless these words are read or used in writing regularly is often a futile pursuit.
In addition to seemingly disconnected efforts to teach/learn new words, vocabulary study is often limited to the English Language Arts class even though there is important vocabulary to be learned across the content areas. In an effort to propose a clean break from the negatives of a word by word approach to learning new terms in the English language, I’d like for you to consider a different methodology altogether: embedded study of prefixes, suffixes, and root words not only in ELA, but as a deliberate effort across content areas.
A Better Approach to Vocabulary Study
William Pittman, Nagasaki University Faculty of Environmental Studies, reminds learners that prefixes, suffixes, and root words “make up 50% of the English Language.” It only serves to reason, then, that in order to equip our students to encounter and interpret new terms , not just today, but throughout their lives, that parts of words become an integral focus in literacy development.
Since root words, prefixes, and suffixes retain their same general meanings whatever words they appear in, it is to students’ advantages to develop thorough understandings of the meanings of these prolific word parts.
These are two great resources that not only provided words lists and quizzes but also offered an array of games and activities (that I had some helpful parents cut out and assemble into envelopes) to help my seventh and eighth graders begin learning the most common roots and affixes. I even had some games like the one below available in my classroom for students to work with when they had a free minute or two:
Prefixes, Suffixes, and Roots as Vocabulary Study
A quick perusal of Vocabulary.com’s Test Prep vocabulary lists site supports practical study of roots, affixes, and suffixes. Once students learn basic roots, prefixes, and suffixes, the dividends will pay off in every area of study! Why not talk to your teaching colleagues today about making a focused emphasis on the study of parts of words a deliberate approach to vocabulary study at your school?
Some great resources are listed here:
- Alphabetical chart of roots/affixes, meanings, and examples
- More detailed information about root words
- More detailed information about prefixes and suffixes
- It’s Greek To Me GAME site
- Root Word GAMES (leveled grades 3-5, 6-8, and 9-12)
- Extensive Dictionary of meanings, origins, and examples
- Link to Scientific Root Words, Prefixes, and Suffixes