Building Vocabulary with Word Roots Builds Reading Comprehension – Part 2

Building Vocabulary with Word Roots Builds Reading Comprehension – Part 2

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Moving from classroom Language Arts teacher to K-5 District ELA Specialist my first order of business was to gauge where we were with reading scores when compared to the rest of the state. We fell well below the state average in Reading Informational Text, Reading Literature, and Language subtests.


Beginning in year one of my new position, I created a pacing guide of Latin and Greek roots and affixes to be taught as early as Kindergarten and ending with 5th grade.


I then developed and delivered extensive professional development on the Why, What, and How to go about teaching this way when it comes to vocabulary instruction.

I developed strategies and activities for teachers so that they could be successful with this new initiative. Each new year required me to train new teachers and teachers new to the district so that my goal of exceeding the state averages in reading would be accomplished.


Growth Chart

At the district level, the teachers that I trained saw incredible growth in their students from year to year. We saw that growth in the mid-year assessment data across all of K-5. 

Even though I worked with elementary grade teachers, several of the middle school teachers at the feeder school up the road remarked how impressed they were with the word attack skills, vocabulary, and fluency that our students entering 6th grade demonstrated.


I would often have high school principals ask me to train their teachers using the roots instructional model due to the importance of the SATs. That wasn't "my lane" so I stuck with the K-5 grades, but I could see that it was having impact even into high school.

At the end of each year, the district that I was working in saw 2%-5% gains in student performance in reading, always inching closer to my goal of full proficiency in reading and reading in the content areas. By using Greek and Latin roots to teach vocabulary the district met and exceeded predicted growth models in reading.


My take away from my own experience is that when we teach students where words come from, how words are formed, how they are related to one another through common word roots, why and how they are used, in various academic areas, and why words mean what they mean, we give students from all backgrounds and nationalities a much stronger ability to comprehend the meaning of unknown words and the texts in which those words appear.



I would often tell teachers, “Why teach just ten words a week and hope by the end of the year they have learned 360 new words, when we can teach them the one to three Greek and Latin Roots a week and give them the tools to determine the meaning of well over 10,000 new words, many of which are academic words found in math, science, and social studies, by the end of High School?”



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On-Demand Webinar hosted by Tim RasinskiBuilding Vocabulary with Word Roots

In this webinar, you will learn how to:

  • Understand why roots knowledge can build vocabulary for reading and writing/p>

  • Learn simple yet powerful ways to teach words through word roots

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For more strategies and tips on vocabulary instruction, check out our other blog articles.



Rasinski, T. V., Padak, N., Newton, R., & Newton, E. (2020). Building Vocabulary with Greek and Latin Roots: A Professional Guide to Word Knowledge and Vocabulary Development (2nd ed.). Huntington Beach, CA: Shell Educational Publishing


Author bio

Alan Becker

Alan Becker, Academic Officer for Teacher Created Materials

Alan Becker specializes in best practices for curriculum and instruction. He provides professional development and training in the content areas of math, ELA, and social studies using TCM curriculum materials and Shell Education professional resources for school districts, teachers, and educational trainers. Prior to his work as an Academic Officer, Mr. Becker served as a District Elementary Education Specialist with Pitt County Schools in Greenville, North Carolina.