As well-read ELA teachers, one of our most difficult struggles is with fitting in all that literacy research best practice into one class period. Independent reading. Grammar Practice. Articles of the Week. Writing Invitations. Latin Word Chunks. We understand the benefits of getting these essentials into each class period but just can’t figure out how to make it actually happen in 53 minutes.
For me, when it comes to Latin Word Chunks, I follow this five-step process for the instruction of five new terms, which we can accomplish in less than 10 minutes nearly each Monday. In my classroom, it looks something like this:
1. Present students with a brief explanation of the new term
“Alright team, grab your highlighters. Mark term #39 ‘mort’ and the definition, which means ‘die or death.'”
Under the document camera, I highlight the term and definition on my Student Study Pack. I reserve one pack for each hour. This makes it easier for reference when students are absent or one class comes up with great examples and I want to share them with the other hours.
“Our mentor example ‘mortician’ is a funeral director or, essentially, someone who prepares dead bodies for burial.”
On my Student Study Pack, I’ll annotate this box making sure that I use at least part of the term definition ( ⤷ one who prepares dead bodies).
2. Ask students to generate their own explanations of the term
“Turn and talk to your neighbors and come up with your own examples.”
Asking the group to do a Think-Pair-Share before calling on individual students to answer is, of course, a way for everyone to share their ideas and be heard.
This way I can cold-call five random kids to collect examples from the groups and not spend the rest of the hour either begging for raised hands or faux-fawning everyone’s “awesomer” example. I do this by quickly numbering off kids (i.e. “airplane stacking,” per Adaptive Schools training):
“Jazmon, you’re #1. Rody, #2. Logan, #3. McCoy, you be #4. And, Aryis, you’re #5.”
This extra moment of organizing who is being called on speeds things up and lets kids have a half second to collect an example from their group (if they zoned out) before I pull their voice into the lesson.
When I call out the numbers, kids shout their examples, and I write them in the “Collected Example” box on my Student Study Packet. Sometimes, I ask kids to clarify how that word fits with the Latin term and definition. Students are expected to write these words and whatever additional examples we didn’t share on their Student Study Pack.
Just a heads-up for middle and high school teachers: Some terms invite what we’ll call “PG-13” responses from students when prompted to come up with example words. Often, these words… uh, might be best suited for a reproductive health class. Consider what results your kids might generate for “circum-” or “ex-, e-.” I’m generally straight-forward with my students and explain how these terms fit the definition. Normally, the examples that make my students giggle are the terms that they remember the most.
3. Present students with a visual for the term
Next, I choose one of our example words to draw in the “Visual Representation” box.
I draw very quickly—less than 20 seconds—and generally repeat the same sketch each hour to save time.
I do try to illustrate something other than the word on the flashcards, so kids have one other option. For example, the flashcard for “mort” shows a screenshot from the video game Mortal Kombat, so I draw might draw someone who is “mortified.”
4. Ask students to create their own visuals for the term
During this time, students can either copy my sketch or come up with their own image.
I always tell my students that they’re invited to be the “worst artists in the room.” It doesn’t matter the quality of the drawing. Students just need to practice elaboration and image association for each term to insure research-based content retention.
5. As students read over the next few weeks, ask students to review their definitions and examples in comparison to new texts
From there on out, when students are reading their choice books, I’ll often have a kid point out during a reading conference how a Latin Word Chunk helped him understand an unknown word.
More often though, it’s during the US History hour of our Humanities block that students make connections with the Latin Word Chunks. For example, during our Great Depression roleplay, students had a very lively conversation about the term “mortgage.”
“Aaagh! It’s ‘mort’ because you’ll be paying the bank ’til you die!”
Even better is when the math and science teachers on my team say that our students are using the Latin Word Chunks to help define academic vocabulary in their classes
Repeat Steps #1-5 for the next four terms.
Aside from following these steps, I do recommend setting a timer during the first few weeks of practice. This helps students feel the sense of urgency when generating their examples and drawing the pictures. It also helps you find a flow, so you can move on to all those other ELA goals.
Thanks . . . to Robert Marzano’s Classroom Instruction that Works (2001) for providing all the ooey-gooey research goodness that guides teachers towards best practice instruction.
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