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.
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!
If you can answer yes to these three questions, your child is at the right stage to benefit from Word Tree activities:
While Word Trees can be interesting for younger children, they are most effective with children who have already mastered these three spelling skills.
The free download contains five prepared Word Trees, plus one blank one.
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?
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.
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.
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?