Many English words come from Latin roots, so becoming familiar with these roots will naturally make reading and spelling easier. But studying word roots is really boring, right?
No! At least, it doesn’t have to be. And Word Trees are my favorite way to teach words derived from Latin roots—and make it engaging to boot!
Check out this 30-second Word Tree demo.
Download your free Word Trees and list of Latin Roots, and then read on for some tips for using them.
Why Is It Helpful to Know Latin Roots?
Think about the Latin root scrib/script, which means to write. When you add prefixes and suffixes to the root, you can create many new words that all have something to do with writing, such as subscriber, scripture, inscribed, description, postscript, prescription, scribbling, and unscripted.
It’s like an 8-for-1 deal: you learn one Latin root, and you get eight words in return. And when you come across a less familiar word like scriptorium, you can recognize the root script, which in turn gives you a head start on understanding the word’s meaning and spelling.
(In case you are wondering, a scriptorium is a room set aside for writing. That makes sense, given that script means to write and -orium is a suffix meaning a place for.)
So it’s probably easy for you to see why I’m such a huge fan of learning Latin roots!
Is Your Child Ready for Word Trees?
If you can answer yes to these three questions, your child is at the right stage to benefit from Word Tree activities:
- Does your child know how to spell closed syllables? Closed syllables are syllables that end in a consonant, such as sub, tract, con, and rupt. A closed syllable generally contains a short vowel, and it is the first syllable type that most children learn to spell.
- Does your child know how to spell open syllables? Open syllables are syllables that end in a vowel, such as me, be, and di. The vowel in an open syllable is generally long.
- Does your child know how to spell common prefixes and suffixes such as -tion, -tive, ab-, and -able?
While Word Trees can be interesting for younger children, they are most effective with children who have already mastered these three spelling skills.
Here’s How to Use the Word Trees
The free download contains five prepared Word Trees, plus one blank one.
- Decide which root word you want to work with. If you are using a blank Word Tree, write the root word in the box at the base of the tree.
- Think of as many words originating from that root as possible, and write those words on the branches.
- Store completed Word Trees in a binder or folder for future reference.
If you can only think of a few words at first, keep the Word Tree available and add to it over the next few days. Perhaps family members, a neighbor, or a friend can think of words to add, or maybe your child will run across more words in his private reading time.
In the photo above, Jimmy created twelve words with the root port, including export, supportive, and reporter. How many words can you come up with?
Which Root Words Should You Teach?
There are hundreds of possible root words to choose from, but two guidelines will make it easy for you to choose effective root words for beginners.
- First, work with root words that occur frequently, as shown in the chart below.
- Second, work with root words whose meaning is easier for your child to understand and that relate to words he already knows. For example, auto (self) and spect (to look) should be studied before fer (to carry).
How Do We Teach Latin Roots in All About Spelling?
Experience a sample Latin roots lesson from All About Spelling Level 7.
Download this Lesson plan for Level 7, Lesson 17.
In the lesson, we start out using letter tiles to demonstrate how prefixes and suffixes can be added to Latin roots.
Then we move on to building four Word Trees. Ten words are assigned for further study, including supportive, distraction, contractor, and inspector.
Next, students write several sentences from dictation, including “Those gnus in the living room are a real distraction!” Finally, students randomly choose four slips of paper from the Writing Station to generate an interesting writing prompt, and they write several unique sentences using at least one of the new Latin-derived spelling words.
Some Final Tips for Teaching Latin Roots
It’s important to keep in mind that we can’t take the meanings of Latin root words too literally. In many cases, the meaning of the root is just a clue to the meaning of the word. For example, the word introspection comes from the prefix intro (meaning inward) and the root spect (meaning to look). We can’t literally translate the word to inward look, but we can get the gist of the real meaning, which is an examination of thoughts and feelings.
Also, for this particular activity, your student doesn’t need to memorize the meaning of the root words or recite them back. As long as he becomes familiar with the meanings, he will be able to recognize the root in other words, and spelling will become easier.
My hope is that as your child actively explores words in this unusual way, he will develop a positive attitude and curiosity about the words around him … and hopefully increase his motivation to learn more!
Would you like step-by-step lessons that help you teach spelling in a hands-on way? All About Spelling was written for parents and teachers like you!
Do you think your child would like the Word Trees approach?
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I’m sure most, if not all students, have at least a few times (or more!) during school where they’ve handed in a homework assignment late, and so as not to get into trouble, given an excuse to their teacher as to why they couldn’t complete their homework on time. Be careful not to use the same excuse too many times, or your teacher may not be so sympathetic next time!
If you’re like me, and often forget about their homework (oops), then maybe this list of excuses can help to bail you out:
- “My dog ate my homework!” – Hmm, perhaps not the most subtle or workable of excuses, but if you really do have a dog… There may be more than a 0.0001% chance that it could work?! If all else fails, you could always bring a stool sample as proof…
- “Homework? I don’t remember getting any homework?” – You probably DO remember getting your homework, but your teacher doesn’t know that, right?
- “Ahh, I thought it was in my bag, but it looks like I’ve left it at home by accident!” – Of course you left it at home by accident! This one is a great excuse, it’s worked a fair few times for me, anyway…
- “I didn’t understand the homework, could you explain it to me so I can give it a second go?” – This excuse works better more for maths or question based homework rather than essays. However, it’s a good way to hit two birds with one stone (you get help on your homework, and a deadline extension!), especially if you actually don’t understand the homework assignment!
- “My computer crashed and I didn’t save my work/my printer stopped working!” – With more and more people using computer based software to complete their homework, a whole new spectrum of excuses have been opened to the desperate, homework-lacking student.
- “I had too much homework from my [insert subject name] class to complete the homework you assigned,” – Poor you, clearly you’ve been given way too much homework by all your other teachers to do this piece! A homework overload is never a good thing.
- “Oh, I think I was absent when the homework was given out…” – You were obviously ill when the homework was handed out in class, even though your teacher is looking at your ‘tick’ of attendance in the register!
- “I’ve been busy with extra-curricular activities and volunteering work outside of school,” – If you’re doing any work or activities outside of work, hey, why not use them as an excuse for not doing your homework! It’s a pretty believable one (especially next to excuse 1.).
- “I’ve been so ill over the past few days, so I haven’t been able to do any of my homework,” – Bed ridden, feverish and unable to distinguish your cat from your sheet of homework, how on earth can you be expected to work in this state?!
- Tell the truth – After using all these excuses, perhaps it’s time to pull out your triumph card – the truth. On the occasion, your teacher may appreciate your use of the truth rather than the usual bombardment of (unbelievable) excuses. Use this one when you’re feeling especially sincere (and desperate).
I hope these excuses have been helpful, just remember that the more you use them, the more unbelievable they’ll become to your teacher. In fact, it may just be better (and easier) for you to hand in you homework on time!