I listened to the Teacher Created Materials podcast, Episode 6, Building Vocabulary. In this podcast, the three authors of the Building Vocabulary Series, Nancy Padak (Investigator for Ohio Literacy Resource Center and Director of the Reading and Writing Center for Kent State University) , Rick Newton (Professor, Kent State University), and Evangeline Newton (Professor of Literacy Education at University of Akron and Director of the Center for Literacy) talk with Editorial Director Lori Kamola about using Greek and Latin word roots to build students’ vocabulary.
This podcast discusses the importance of teaching vocabulary using word families and Greek and Latin roots, which can dramatically increase a student’s vocabulary, improve comprehension, raise test scores, and create a lifelong interest in word learning.
This podcast presented some very interesting information. The speakers discussed the relationship between the level of a students’ vocabulary and the level of their reading comprehension. The speakers note that the English language has the largest lexicon of words, estimated between 1 – 2 million words. They also note that the number of words grows by about 20,000-22,000 words per year due to new research and technology. At a time when the number of words in our language is growing so quickly, the number of words in the students’ reading vocabulary seems to be shrinking dramatically.
Another interesting piece of information was that 90% of English words with more than 1 syllable are Latin based, and the majority of the remaining 10% are Greek based. These findings lead the speakers to suggest that by learning the strategy of applying word roots, students will have more success with figuring out new words. The speakers also suggest that by learning just 10 roots, students can increase their vocabulary by almost 200 words.
The speakers also discuss that the more “traditional” approach of teaching vocabulary (by introducing a new word list to students and expecting them to learn them each week) is not the most effective practice. Focus on definition alone is not effective, but vocabulary needs to be learned in context.
Finally, the speakers suggest several ways for teachers to improve their vocabulary instruction. These suggestions include spending 10-15 minutes per day on vocabulary, developing routines, direct instruction of key words, and to teach word analysis strategies to students.