Morphology Is a Valid Strategy for High School Students to Improve Vocabulary.

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Tamara Connors Brennan

PSU EDTEC561

Prof. David Popp

Theoretical Explanation

Many researchers have proposed that teaching students word roots unlocks the meanings of unknown words. The majority of words in the English language have origins from Greek and Latin. Ninety percent of English words over one syllable are Latin based, and the remaining 10 percent are Greek based (Rasinski, Padak, Newton, & Newton, (2008, p. 11). Just as phonics teaches word families, Greek and Latin roots will help students sound out words and determine the meanings of words (Padak, Newton, Rasinski, and Newton (2008, p. 29). Nagy & Anderson, 1984, found morphology played an important role in learning vocabulary by allowing students to make semantic connections between related word families. They concluded, “The ability to utilize morphological relatedness among words puts a student at a distinct advantage in dealing with unfamiliar words” (p.323). While research supports the teaching of word roots, no formalized instruction in roots exists at my high school.

Purpose of my study:

Students need vocabulary deciphering strategies in high school. Morphology is a valid strategy for high school students to improve vocabulary. Studies also show an increase in reading comprehension and spelling.

Third through sixth grade students performed better on reading and spelling with morphophonemic training than with just training in phonics (Henry 1988, 1989, 1993).

In the study, “Contributions of Morphology Beyond Phonology to Literacy Outcomes of Upper Elementary and Middle-School Students,” Nagy, Abbott, and Berninger (2006) found “Results showed that when the shared variance among morphological awareness, phonological working memory, and phonological decoding are controlled statistically, morphological awareness contributes ...at all grade levels to reading comprehension, reading vocabulary, and spelling” (p. 143).

"Corson, a British sociologist, even suggests that it is differences in language ability, more than any other observable factor, that affects children's potential for success in school. He makes the point that learning the Latin and Greek word roots allows children to begin learning the 'specialist' words in contrast to the Anglo-Saxon 'performance' vocabulary. He suggests that some social groups do not learn these special words in their natural environment. "(1985, p.28).

The purpose of this study is to develop student morphemic awareness and increase their knowledge of the meanings of word roots including prefixes and suffixes. New avenues of learning roots will be explored. The goal is to improve students’ potential to decipher the meaning of new vocabulary.

Learning Targets

First, students will be able to divide multi syllable words into word parts or morphemes. On Ellen Gagné's level of complexity in human skills, using Discrimination students can identify and separate roots, prefixes, or suffixes in a word.

Next, students will learn the meanings of common prefixes, suffixes and roots. Ellen Gagné would label Greek and Latin roots Defined Concepts.

I hope to show students will be able to determine a word’s meaning based on their knowledge of the word's parts. Ellen Gagné would label this Higher Order Rules. Students will need to apply their previously learned definitions, to form a new definition of a new word.

Area of Focus

Roots to be studied will be pulled from various resources including: Stauffer, 1942, identified the fifteen most common prefixes from the 10,000 words in the Thorndike Word Book: ab (from) ,ad (to),be (by),com (with),de (from),en (in),ex (out),in (into), in (not),pre (before), pro (in front of), re (back), sub (under), un (not) (pg. 455).

“Brown (1947) noted that 80% of the English words borrowed from other languages come to us from Latin and Greek and make up approximately 60% of our language. He analyzed Latin and Greek word roots and concluded that...
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