First-graders are learning about “de-” at Hatton Community Learning Center in Akron, Ohio. Photo: Dustin Franz, Education Week
With students gone for the day, 6th grade teachers Joy Ford and Ryan Rusk sat in a classroom discussing the Latin root temp.
After determining that “contemporary” and “temporary” share the root, which refers to time, the two Woodlawn Elementary teachers then turned to the word “temptation.”
“I’m tempted to eat this chocolate,” said Ford. “That doesn’t have to do with time.”
“But if I’m tempted, I want it now,” responded Rusk. “So could it?”
At the Virginia elementary school, K-6 teachers meet weekly to learn how to use Greek and Latin roots to build vocabulary, writes Heitin.
Learning one root can enable students to “unlock” more than 100 words, said Joanna Newton, the reading specialist at Woodlawn. It’s a lot faster — and more liberating — than memorizing vocabulary lists.
Chris Schmidt, a 3rd-5th grade gifted education teacher in North Carolina’s Buncombe County district, uses a program called Caesar’s English, writes Heitin. His students enjoy trying to “break the code.”
Spanish-speaking students should be whizzes at picking up Latin.
In seventh grade, I learned Greek and Latin words in Ms. Ericksen’s Vocabulary Reading class. I still remember the excitement of realizing that “bio” means life and “graph” is writing, so “biography is writing about someone’s life. And “auto” means self, so you get “autograph” and “autobiography” and . . .
I still think about things like the “temp” in “temptation” and the “temp” in “temporary.” (The first derives from the Latin temptare “to feel, try out, attempt to influence, test,” according to the Online Etymological Dictionary, while the second comes from the Latin tempus, which means “time, season.” )