Building Vocabulary Using Word Roots and Prefix Meanings
Grade Levels: 6 - 12
This lesson is for language arts students in a middle or high school. During the lesson, students build their vocabulary by using word webs to help them learn the meanings of different Greek and Latin roots and common prefixes.
- word web handout
Students will determine the meanings of common Greek and Latin word roots and prefixes by brainstorming words they know that contain the word roots and prefixes.
Students will use a word web to help them learn the definitions of word roots and prefixes.
Review the two broad types of words in English: words that can be broken into smaller words and words that cannot (base words). Explain that words that can be broken are made up of two or more of the three words parts: roots, prefixes, and suffixes. Review what each of those are, and explain to students that many times, they can "break apart" words that they don't know to figure out the definitions. Create a word web on the board and write the Latin root -magn- in the center of the web.
Ask students to brainstorm three words that they know that contain the root, and then write the words in the circles. (Students might think of magnify, magnanimous, and magnificent.) Ask them what the definitions of the three words are that they gave you, and guide them to realize they can figure out the -magn- means "large" or "grand." Therefore, they can most likely figure out the definition of a word they don't know that contains the root -magn-.
Write the common prefix un- in the center of the word web. Ask students to brainstorm three words they know that begin with un-, and write them in the circles. Help students "break apart" the words they gave you, leading them to recognize that un- means "not." Point out that by knowing what un- and the base word means, they can figure out the definition of the word. For example, if students know that un- means "not" and ready means "prepared," then they can figure out that unready means "not prepared" or "not ready."
Explain to students that if they are taking a standardized test, and they realize they don't know the base word of the unknown word but they know the meaning of the prefix of the unknown word, then they still may have a good chance of choosing the correct definition.
Divide the class into pairs of students and distribute copies of the word web or ask students to copy them into their notebooks. Give each pair of students these five Greek word roots: -anthrop- (human) -chrom- (color) -dem- (people) -log- (study, word) -phil- (like, love) Also, give them these five Latin roots: -audi- (hear) -cogn- (know) -onmi- (all) -prim- (early) -ver- (turn). Do not give students the meanings of the word roots, but have them fill out the word web for each of these roots. Ask them to write the definition of the word root in the center circle once they have finished the word web and figured out the definition of the root word.
Next, give pairs of students these groups of prefixes, and have them do the same exercise as they did above: co- com- (with, together) de- (away, from, off) dis- (away, off, opposing) em- en- (cause to be, put into) pro- (forward, in place of, favoring).
Evaluate students' understanding by collecting their word webs and evaluating their work. Challenge students further by giving them a vocabulary test with difficult words that contain the word roots and prefixes they've learned. Challenge them to either write definitions for the unknown words or select the correct definitions from a group of choices that you've provided.