Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Introducing word roots in English discussion classes

Introducing word roots in English discussion classes
Kevin Demme
Canadian Content 18(3), 7-9 (2008)

1. Coupled with subsequent borrowings and newly created scientific terms, Hook (1975) estimated that over three fifths of Modern English vocabulary has its roots in Latin, Greek, or other Romance languages (p.293)

2. These roots are especially prevalent in words in academia.

3. In the University Word List, Corson (1997) noted that 144 of the list's 150 most common words had Latin or Greek roots (p.677)

Introduction of Latin roots introduced in the Harry Potter series. Nilsen and Nilsen (2006) felt that becoming familiar with these word roots enhanced the students' confidence and aided in their vocabulary retention (p.129)

5a. Adams and Henry (1997) felt that with "approximately 25 prefixes, 40 suffixes, 50 Latin roots, and 50 Greek roots creating many thousands of words, teaching these forms to all children makes excellent sense" (p.432).

5b. They noted that these morphemes were especially useful for American high school students preparing for university exams (Adams and Henry, 1997, p.431).

5c. By extension, the knowledge of Latin and Greek roots may be useful for ESL students planning to take the TOEIC or TOEFL tests.

6. A particularly useful characteristic of Latin and Greek morphemes is that their meanings remain constant regardless of the affix they are connected with (Adams and Henry, 1997, p.431).

7. Brown (1947) related "that 12 Latin and 2 Greek roots in combination with 20 of the most frequently used prefixe would generate an estimated 100,000 words" (as cited in Adams and Henry, 1997, p.431)

8. Nilsen and Nilsen (2006) noted that the roots and words the students learn "provide them with mental hooks on which to hang...new words" (p.129)

Past research:
1. In the 1970s and 80s in the US, Latin classes were introduced into some underperforming city schools. It was found that students who took a year of Latin "performed five months to a year ahead of control groups in reading comprehension and vocabulary" (Eskenazi, 2000, p.61)

2. Kail (2008), whose American high school implemented weekly instruction in Latin and Greek roots, found that her students acquired "an increased vocabulary, better reading comprehension, and a better command of word choice in their writing" (p.67)

1. In the Birmingham Corpus, a word list designed by Britain's University of Birmingham and Collins Publishers to teach ESL for everyday use, only 2 of the top 150 words were derived from Latin and Greek roots (Corson, 1997, p.677). Therefore, these morphemes may be more useful for intermediate or advanced learners.

2. It is often hard to find roots or morphemes that neatly fit all situations.

3. The original meanings of words often change over time (e.g., dec-: decide, decade, decimate, December)

4. Often times even having a knowledge of word roots can only give a suggestion, or at best, a general idea about what a word might mean.

5. Becoming adept at recognizing word roots can take time, effort, and frequent exposure

6. Many Latin and Greek roots in English vocabulary are not transparent, and are difficult for even native speakers to distinguish (Corson, 1997, p.696)

7. It takes conscious effort to recognize word roots, and that identification of them was never automatic (Adams, 1990, as cited in Adams and Henry, 1997, p.430)

Suggested class activities:
1. discuss common roots in names of class subjects > show how these roots can be combined and used in other words > discussion activity (unrelated)

2. word roots in numbers > samples of words formed with these roots

3. definitions game = write word on board > students write definition > cards shuffled > groups choose correct answer

4. 'Dictionary Bluff' = groups create false choices > other groups choose correct answer from choices

5. students given pictures > talk about picture > predict what is happening and what will happen next

1. In doing research, it is sometimes inevitable to have control and treatment groups. However, the age long question remains: Is it unethical to give preferential treatment to the treatment group? Additionally, it is only natural for the treatment group to perform better because they are receiving something extra on top of similar instruction.

Possible Research Opportunities:
1. treatment and control group in TOEIC class; teach one class Latin and Greek word roots and something else with the other?

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The home run book: Can one positive reading experience create a reader?

The home run book: Can one positive reading experience create a reader?
Debra Von Sprecken, Jiyoung Kim, and Stephen Krashen
California School Library Journal, 23(2), 8-9, 2000

"Free reading appears to be the source of much of our reading ability, our writing style, much of our vocabulary knowledge, our spelling ability, and our ability to handle complex grammatical constructions" (Krashen, 1993; Elley, 1991, 1998)

Based on personal experience growing up in the Philippines and reading mostly English books, I still find myself making wrong lexical and grammatical choices due to the influence of the environment, through the way other people talk and on TV. Even though I read a lot, I've been reading mostly fiction since I was 12, all in English, I still make weird grammatical mistakes and I find sometimes that the words I learn from repeated exposure in books have far different meanings than what I thought they were after appropriating their meaning after several encounters.

n = 214; 4th grade students from 3 elementary schools in the LA area

Research Questions:
1. Do you like to read?
2. Is there one book or experience that interested you in reading?

I wonder about the validity of the first research question. Are people who like reading necessarily "readers" as the title suggests?

1. around 96% said yes
(the children borrowed an average of 13 books each from the library)
2. around 55%

1. To ensure that students can become readers, a well-stacked library is a must. The books must be up to date and suit the readers' preferences.
2. I went to the Taipei American School (TAS) to do an observation one time and they had something called a "book flood" or something; I forgot the exact term. What the teacher does is he/she brings the whole class to the library (they have three libraries: lower school, middle school, and upper school) and the students are free to read whatever they want within the hour; they are also allowed to check the books out if they wanted to continue reading outside the library. They also have a mini library in each of their classrooms so kids can pick up books during break and sometimes even during class. Just having the books around could be a motivation to read for some, I believe.
3. In the research paper, students listed the names of the books that got them interested in reading (home run books), and surprisingly, Harry Potter was not on the list. I kept thinking that Harry Potter created many readers.
4. For the first research question, around 96 percent of the students said that they liked reading. The number is surprisingly high, since not many people around me like to read. This is true in Japan and Taiwan. I believe, though, that the number is a bit higher in the Philippines? I could be wrong. But I recall one joke saying that Latinos go to the beach to play in the water while Americans go to the beach to read a book. I guess it's cultural.

Possible Research Opportunities:
1. I wonder what the results would be in another cultural setting so it may be a good idea to replicate the same study in another setting. (Note to self: administer the same research questions to Mack's students)
2. What motivates potential readers to read a home run book? How do they get interested enough to even try it in the first place?
I personally started reading because my friends were reading
3. Are there also "strike out experiences," negativ experiences with reading that discourage free reading?
I read a fair share of really bad books but that didn't deter me from reading on
4. Can a home run experience make up for a "strikeout" experience? Can one positive experience be a cure for one or more negative experiences?
I suppose so. I also believe that series can be more motivating just single titles