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

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Using Morphological Analysis to Teach Vocabulary In English and French Classes By Constance O’Sullivan and Charlotte Ebel

Teachers as Scholars Institute Princeton University July, 2004 Marguerite Browning, Professor

Foreword Vocabulary instruction via morphological analysis requires syntactic knowledge and an awareness of the multiple levels of cognitive ability whether the target vocabulary is in English or in a second language. In this project, we will posit several strategies for accomplishing this task in order to facilitate the acquisition and maintenance of new vocabulary for our high school students in English and in French.

English Vocabulary Acquisition through Morphological Analysis Constance O’Sullivan According to the research of Baker, Simmons and Kameenui of the University of Oregon on “Vocabulary Acquisition: Synthesis of Research” new learning builds on what the learner already knows. Critical factors that contribute to vocabulary development include generalized linguistic differences, memory deficit, differences in strategies for learning new words, differential instructional procedures and depth of word knowledge. Through depth of word knowledge is association, comprehension and generation. Research suggests that after the age of seven the ease in which a student gains vocabulary levels off. Thus vocabulary growth varies among students and as a result the vocabulary gap grows increasingly larger over time. The question that comes to mind is “What happens at the high school level when the study of vocabulary is part of the curriculum?” High School students, (a group I call the “entertain me generation”) today have had access to computers and the Internet since they were in first or second grade. Because of this the study of vocabulary is considered boring if it is not accompanied by an activity. There are two ways to pursue this; the first is through an interactive student/computer program complete with bells and whistles. The second is through student group participation in the classroom. The Program The purpose of both programs is to develop and enhance vocabulary by using morphological analysis. In order to do this the student, the student must be armed with the knowledge that a morpheme is the smallest meaningful unit of grammar (Glossary of Linguistic Terms.) In addition the student must know the differences between a root word, suffix and prefix. In order for a computer based or classroom-based program to be successful it is important to keep in mind that learning does not occur in a vacuum, (Baker, Simmons and Kameenui). Therefore just listing words for a student to analyze may not be interesting. Computer Based Activity ( activity time approximately 20 minutes) As this is a student – computer based activity the student loads the vocabulary program and is welcomed to the program with music. The computer displays a series of sentences highlighting the word to be analyzed and defined. Example: The young girl’s behavior was unladylike. Un lady like Un – not (prefix) Lady – well behaved female (root word)

Like – having the characteristics of (suffix) Should the student be unfamiliar with either a prefix or suffix they would be able to obtain the meaning by striking the appropriate box on the screen. If the answer is correct the computer would give the student a point and a puppy might bark, “you’re right” to the student. Classroom Based Activity (activity time approximately 20 minutes) The classroom setting offers students an opportunity to work in groups with immediate human feedback. Taking the same example of “unladylike” the activity would play as follows. 1. Each student in the class would represent a root word, prefix or suffix 2. Each student would have a listing of prefixes and suffixes to use as a reference. 3. The sentence is written on the board by a teacher or student Example: The Young girl’s behavior was unladylike. 4. A student would write the word on the board in...
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