For the past month, Emily has been using a new vocabulary program that she just loves. Greek Morphemes Lessons (It's NOT Greek to Me!) ($69.95) focuses on teaching the foundations of much of the vocabulary we encounter—Greek morphemes. The three components of the program are the Instructor’s Manual, Student Book, and Instructor’s Manual CD (soon to be replaced by a flash drive). We actually received both the CD and the flash drive. I loved using the flash drive since it was quicker to move from one computer to another. Many computers now don’t even have a CD drive, so the flash drive makes the program easier to use for many people.
The publisher, Ready to Teach, also sells a program that teaches Latin morphemes.
Greek Morphemes Lessons consists of 12 5-day lessons. Each weekly lesson has the same format:
Day 1: Watch and interact with the slide show on the CD. The slide show introduces the 16-18 Greek morphemes for the week by encouraging the student to think of words containing that morpheme and figuring out a meaning. The actual meaning of each morpheme is then taught and the student copies the definitions into the Student Book. The student then makes flashcards for the morphemes. (The teacher’s book had pre-printed flashcards. We just used these to save time and Emily still learned the morphemes quickly without the added step of making her own.)
Day 2: The student “works” 16-18 words by taking a word, breaking it into individual morphemes, defining each morpheme, guessing a definition for it, then looking up a dictionary definition for the word. Example:
Mancy: prophecy or prediction
My definition: prediction of a book
Dictionary definition: divination by means of a book, especially the Bible
Day 3: Create a context clue sentence for 8-16 words. These sentences can use definitions, synonyms, antonyms, or examples in the sentence to give clues to the meaning of the target word.
Day 4: Write possible definitions for (sometimes fictional) words like pantochronologist and isochromic using the weeks’ morphemes. Match these words to funny definitions.
Example: (pantochromophobia—a fear of all colors—If you have this, you prefer your movies in black and white.)
Review words using a simple matching game found on the CD.
Day 5: Test
I think this program is a fantastic way to learn vocabulary, an important component of SAT preparation and overall reading comprehension. Learning the 200 prefixes, suffixes, and roots in this book will result in the addition of hundreds of new words to a student’s working vocabulary. Emily spent 20-40 minutes a day on the program and was able to complete a lesson every week.
She has enjoyed the program and it’s usually the first subject she works on each day. In fact, she keeps saying, “I love vocabulary!” Not something I ever thought I’d hear her say!
After the first week, Emily was able to do her vocabulary work independently. Some tasks were more difficult than others. Emily had trouble coming up with context clue sentences on day 3. Writing definitions and using synonyms was easy, but giving hints to a word using antonyms and examples was more difficult for her. I helped her the first week and she finds it a little easier each week. I really think that mastering this technique will help her to decode unfamiliar words by using context clues when she’s reading. She really enjoyed making up or deducing her own definitions for unfamiliar words and found this quite easy once she knew the individual morphemes.
The emphasis of Greek Morphemes Lessons is not the memorization of vocabulary, but the learning of morphemes that will enable the student to decode many many words. With the exception of a few starred words, the student is not required to memorize a dictionary definition of the word, but is instead required to come up with an approximation of meaning using the word roots, prefixes, and suffixes. I think that this process of learning and using word roots in different ways throughout the week makes this an enjoyable and effective way to learn vocabulary.
All year long, in the biology lab I teach, I’ve been introducing the students to morphemes to help them with their vocabulary words. Every single week, there are words that could be figured out or learned more quickly if the students knew that bio means life or ovi means egg, and so on. I’ve realized that none of these high school students are in the habit of dissecting words this way. This is an important and time-efficient way to learn new vocabulary and improve reading comprehension. I’m thrilled that we’ve had the chance to try out Greek Morphemes Lessons (It's NOT Greek to Me!) and highly recommend it.