The English language is a confusing language to learn at times! How many times, when teaching your child to read or spell, have you had to say, “That word doesn’t follow any of the rules, you just have to memorize it”? I tell my students that English is a mutt language. It comes from many different languages; therefore we have to borrow rules from other languages. One of the most effective ways I have seen to help develop a deeper understanding of the English language is to study Latin and Greek root words.
Latin and Greek are the foundation for many languages world wide, and account for 60% of English words. Studying the roots of the English language builds a strong foundation for growing and using a large vocabulary. I can remember first studying root words in fourth grade, and what I learned has stuck with me even now.
Take “video visum” for example, it means “see.” Can you guess which words we use daily that come from this Latin word? Television, video, evidence, advise, invisible, provide, and visit. When you know the definition of the root, we can quickly assign a meaning to the derivations. Even if we don’t know the exact meaning we get a pretty good idea. I find a lot of connections in the subject of science. Biology, sociology, psychology, astrology….what do these words all share? “– ology” which comes from the Latin word for “word, study.” It makes sense now doesn’t it? Each one of those terms I listed above is the study of something. “Biology” is the “study of life;” it comes from two root words: bio, meaning life, and logos. It’s sort of like putting a puzzle together. Once you fit the pieces together, you can see the big picture.
As I do for many different resources, I look to Cathy Duffy to help me select the right curriculum. There are multiple sources out there for teaching roots words, but one of the most popular (and the one I used when in school) is English from the Roots Up (Volumes I and II) by Joegil K Lundquist. I find that the suggested study method in this book leaves a little to be desired for some students, but the information is great. I like the color-coding system for visually identifying the language. Whatever approach you use to studying the information, I find it well worth the time. Encourage your student to make personal connections to the words, and challenge them to use them in their writing. I find this study appropriate for most students age 9 and up.
You can read Cathy Duffy’s review at http://cathyduffyreviews.com/homeschool-reviews-core-curricula/spelling-and-vocabulary/vocabulary-resources/english-from-the-roots-up
Roots and Fruits: A Comprehensive Vocabulary Curriculum, by Jill Dixon is designed for grades K-12! It has great reviews on the website Cathy Duffy Reviews. To read more about it, go to http://cathyduffyreviews.com/homeschool-reviews-core-curricula/spelling-and-vocabulary/vocabulary-resources/roots-and-fruits-a-comprehensive-vocabulary-curriculum
Word Roots, by Cherie A. Plant takes a more classical approach to teaching the root words. It uses both workbooks and software. See more at
Whether you decide to make it a main course of study, or just do a little here and there, studying the root words can improve your student’s vocabulary, spelling, and reading comprehension. What do you have to lose? Your student might not be the only one to learn something new!