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liminal's avatar

Do you have some examples and ideas for teaching...?

Asked by liminal (7766points) February 14th, 2010

The children (both 9) and I are about to start learning latin and greek roots. I am beginning with explaining: definition, derivation, and metaphor.

They obviously encounter these things every day and I want to start pointing that out. For example, the week we are focusing on derivation, we will be baking bread (it being a derivation of flour, salt, yeast, water, etc…).

What would be your suggestions?

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18 Answers

skfinkel's avatar

While this might not be exactly what you are thinking about, I want to recommend Teaching with Your Mouth Shut, which gives a wonderful perspective about pedagogy in general and ideas about education. It’s for college, but the ideas are applicable to all ages. By Don Finkel (to whom I was married).

the100thmonkey's avatar

I’d be inclined to teach derivation with Lego (assuming that you mean derivation).

LostInParadise's avatar

It would be a good idea to give a brief history of the influences on English – conquest by Romans and then by Normans. You could tell that Latin came into the language twice, once directly and the second time indirectly by way of French. You could explain how Latin terms are still used in law and in science. An easy place to find Greek and Latin roots is in the names of various branches of science and in related terms like the word thermometer. It could be a good project to explore these, find the roots and then see where else the roots are applied.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

I sort of like your methodology, but… isn’t “flour / grain, salt and yeast” the derivation of bread, and not the other way ‘round? Bread is a further processing of those ingredients. (But the smell of fresh-baked bread… and a promise that “you can’t have it until the morning’s lessons are done” should be a great motivator.)

I think @the100thmonkey‘s example is a good one. Take a Lego structure and show how the blocks are derivatives of that structure.

cornbird's avatar

I would try to use toys to show the examples of derivation. For the suggestion that LostInParadise gave, I would do this in the form of a fairy tale story. The point that I am making is that you must always try to capture the attention of your students in relation to their age. This is what makes a good teacher.

Dilettante's avatar

I bought “Encarta World English Dictionary,” the large hardcover version,when it was first published. The price has been greatly reduced at the major booksellers, by the way, since the online version was introduced; but they’re not the same. The book provides much more elaborate definitions, etymological citations, Latin roots of the words. I own 26 dictionaries at last count, and Encarta is my favorite.
Now, begin discussing everyday words with the children. Look them up in Encarta together; see if there is in fact a Latin root, in addition to any other ones listed. Notice how many of the latin roots are similar, phonetically, spelling, etc,, to the common English word. Then follows the meaning, usage of the word in Latin, which invariably provides insight into the English word’s concise meaning. So often, there’s an “Aha” moment; and the word, the definition, the shades of meaning become clear. This self-generated insight is a key factor in true learning, cognition, in my opinion. I have advanced degrees in field, was a state-certified teacher of English literature and grammar, and a published writer; perhaps entitled to voice an opinion in such matters.
Then I suggest you check off the word, underscore it or better yet highlight the words you’ve learned with various colored markers, perhaps different colors for different categories you’ve devised. The colors are good focal devices for the kids as well.
Then bookmark each page that has a word you’ve explored, or perhaps begin a separate, hand-written index too. I have hundreds of paper bookmarks, which I’ve amassed over the years by guiltily grabbing a few too many “extras” from public and university libraries. Is there a bookmark rehab facility in my future? LOL
But I digress. What you will have is a huge reference source, with dozens of bookmark “tabs” protruding from it, labeled, for easy reference. Perhaps devise a “pop quiz” or flash card method for review? Hope this helps.

Dilettante's avatar

Oops, I just reread your question; Greek roots are listed too.

liminal's avatar

Very thoughtful ideas, thank you… @CyanoticWasp um, blush. I did say that all backwards. In my head I had it right, I think. For sure, I will be on target on baking day (sigh, moments like that give homeschooling a bad name). Yes, I agree, @the100thmonkey‘s lego idea is right on! @skfinkel and @Dilettante I will look into those resources, thank you. @LostInParadise and @cornbird I like that idea very much and will probably use it.

janbb's avatar

@skfinkel I cited Don’s book to my adult students when they were engaged in a lively discussion that all but excluded me!

Jeruba's avatar

If it were up to me, I think I would choose a handful of very productive Latin roots, such as port, libr, act, vis, and the like, refresh my awareness of the lists of derivatives, and make it a point to use a high concentration of them in a short period of time. Then I’d want to talk about what the derivatives of one of those words have in common (for example, the idea of carrying or of seeing). From there I’d work back to the source in Latin.

I’d start with Latin because it’s a familiar alphabet. I’d also, if possible, drag in some cognates from other Romance languages.

Once they got the idea, but on another day, maybe I’d introduce some Greek roots and go the opposite direction: ask them to think of some words that have that root (logos) would be a good one) and see how the meaning of the word relates to the root.

Depending on the aptitude of the kids, I might go into the Greek alphabet and use a Greek dictionary or an online source for the Greek characters.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

@Jeruba I think I’d like you to teach me some of that stuff.

Jeruba's avatar

Hmm, maybe I take a lot for granted. Aren’t those roots pretty common knowledge among folks with a strong command of English?

If I were going to be more systematic about it, without knowing anything about how courses in such subjects as etymology and morphology are taught, I’d probably ask two or three classical languages majors and professors of my acquaintance each to give me a list of their 100 favorite Greek and Latin words to know as progenitors of English words.

Then I’d dream up half a dozen or more kinds of activities, including games, rhymes, and memory exercises, for unmasking those roots when they appear in partial disguise in common English vocabulary; for example,


Those all come from the third principal part of video, videre, visi, visum, “to see.” (And there’s a whole other list of related words with the vid root.)

Knowing some roots and seeing the relations among words with common roots are skills that not only do you worlds of good in reading (a root plus context clues can go a long way toward decoding unfamiliar words, especially if you also have a grasp of prefixes and suffixes) but are a tremendous advantage when it comes to standardized tests, where, as we know, being able to eliminate choices greatly increases your chances of scoring a correct answer.

I am drawing here on nothing but two years of Latin taken more than 40 years ago, together with a firm habit over the years always to look at the derivation of a word I look up in the dictionary. Over time I have accumulated a great deal of familiarity with roots and derivations just by being aware of them, with no formal study of linguistics. Just a little systematic study of Latin can be a huge foundation to future study of language.

For even more fun, use a resource such as the American Heritage dictionary, look up the roots in the back (in this case, wied), and find the connections between the vid/vis root and words such as wisdom.

One of the most entertaining exercises might be an exploration of all the words related to “two” (twist, twine, double, duplicity, devil…). Understanding both the obvious and the subtle connections among them gives amazing insights into their true meanings.

liminal's avatar

@Jeruba you describe very well why I’ve decided to work latin and greek roots into the children’s curriculum. I’m excited for them to get a firm grasp on the concepts of derivation, metaphor, and definition, I think, it will make game play and daily living with the latin and greek a fun, natural, extension. I like your emphasis on connecting and finding commonality. I am excited about learning these roots. I think my educational experiences in life would have been greatly helped and I know it will continue to help me.

We spend lots of time with the dictionary looking at the language tree and reading words. Recently they have started to ask frequent questions about the “funny letters” and “roots” listed in definitions, which indicated to me they are ready for this next step. We are starting with the book, English from the Roots Up as a source for the roots we will be learning. The examples you list are among the first we are working with. We will be doing some classic exercises, (making their own flash cards and playing games with them) tangible activities, (when we work with the root photos we will be making pinhole cameras) and purposely bringing the use of derivatives into our daily activities.

Again, thank you for your thoughtful response, it helps me focus.

LostInParadise's avatar

Another thing you could do is to explain how Linnaeus introduced the idea of giving every living thing Latin names for genus and species. A good dictionary should give the genus and species for common plants and animals.

liminal's avatar

@CyanoticWasp Okay, as I am preparing for lessons I remembered why I was thinking of bread as a derivation of flour, water, yeast, etc.. In particular, I was thinking about a word like photosynthesis: photos (light) + syn (together) + thesis (putting). I was thinking the ingredients in bread could represent root words, then, from putting those ingredients together we get bread which represents derivation. Thus, when studying photos and talking about the derivation photosynthesis I would call to mind how different ingredients derived bread the way putting together different root words derive a single word like photosynthesis. Yet, from what you pointed out I am wondering if I should leave baking to fractions and keep derivation to legos :)

liminal's avatar

@LostInParadise As you may already know, derivation comes from the Latin words de (down from, away from) + rivus (brook, stream). I am planning some walks along some local brooks that flow from a local river. Your idea will fit in nicely with the nature walks we take and the study of the word photosynthesis!

LostInParadise's avatar

This is off topic, but I think the nature walks are a really good idea for so many reasons. One thing to do on a walk is to take time to be absolutely still and ask your children to carefully observe what they see, hear and smell and then to tell about it afterwards. Encourage questions. There is no shame in not knowing the answers. That just becomes another project to pursue.

liminal's avatar

I love that response! They each carry a little journal they can write or draw in. You’ve inspired me to send them off in different directions to spend time doing what you just suggested. Then we can regroup, make journal entries, and then share.

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