Tag Archives: vocabulary

Resources for Designing Morphologically-Rich Lessons

This post contains resources for teachers to build morphologically-rich lessons, based upon an action research study I conducted while part of the Governor’s Teacher Network program. To learn more about the study, check out the slideshow below.

Select Your Goals

Please download the lesson plan template to get you started. Think about your goals for students. What standards will you meet? What will your learning targets be? For most of us, tracing word meanings and morphology will be found in the Vocabulary Acquisition and Use standard in the Language strand of the Common Core State Standards.

Choose a Text

Choose a text of your choice, or you can explore some of the adapted texts at these websites. They are free to use, but you will need to create an account.


Read Works

Kelly Gallagher’s Article of the Week

Select the Anchor Word(s)

Find one or two morphologically rich words necessary to understand the text.  You can use the Academic Word List or the Academic Word Finder from Achieve the Core to help you.

Determine the morpheme you would like to provide instruction on.  Here are some links to help you.

Words Their Way

Learn That Word

Scholastic – Most Common Prefixes and Suffixes

Reading First — Virginia DOE

Better Endings List

Instructional Strategies for Reading

Say Something


T-charts for collecting evidence

Text Coding

Chunking and Annotation


Create Games




Word Study Uno

Free Microsoft Office-Based Game Templates

The Power of Generating Words

One of the most powerful methods for improving vocabulary is morphological instruction. Morphemes (more often called roots, prefixes, and suffixes) are meaning units that help students develop the word consciousness to determine the meanings of words. Even more exciting, morphological instruction can be generative, meaning that students can control their learning rather than the teacher controlling it.

Generative vocabulary instruction builds upon and expands students’ current vocabularies. It operates on the belief that students have background knowledge that we can build upon and use.  Check out an example of student-generated words from a mini-lesson I taught on the roots “pend” and “pens” last winter.


In this example, I explicitly taught the word independent. Then, I showed students how pend or pens mean “hang” or “weigh.” Students generated words in small groups. Then we discussed how the words related to the meanings “hang” or “weigh.” Sometimes they didn’t — a situation referred to as “false roots.” However, most do. Then, I teach a few new words to students, relating the meanings of new words to “hang” or “weigh.”  Students report that this helps them improve their word-solving skills as well as their understanding of vocabulary in every subject area.

Students move from “the known to the new,” or they identify words they already know which contain the target morphemes. Once students can connect the meaning of the morphemes to their current vocabulary, they are better able to connect and remember new words that integrate the morphemes (Bear et al., 2012; Flanigan, Templeton, & Hayes, 2012; Stygles, 2011). In addition, generative vocabulary instruction emphasizes the spelling-meaning connection (Flanigan, Templeton, & Hayes, 2012). Consistent spelling of morphemes helps students make connections between words, even when they are pronounced differently. For example, the words category and categorical are pronounced differently, although the spellings of the words demonstrate that they are closely related in meaning.

I am currently integrating this approach into a language learning framework I am using in an action research study for the Governor’s Teacher Network. My new study incorporates similar mini-lessons to the pend/pens one, yet now I am having students connect morphemes to words in their native language. The participants in my study are in an ESL class, and they all share Spanish as a first language. I’m excited about how improved morphological knowledge will affect these students’ vocabulary as whole.  Below I’ve included a photo from our first mini-lesson on the prefixes com-, co-, con-, col- and cor-, which all mean “together” or “with.” Students have already generated great connections between words like concert (concerto), company (compania), and coordination (coordination).




Do you use morphological instruction into your teaching? Have you used generative vocabulary instruction before? What types of lessons and activities have especially benefitted your students?

The Vocab Games: Flyswatter

All you need to play this fun game is two flyswatters, a whiteboard, whiteboard markers, and a vocabulary list.  I first observed this game in a colleague’s Spanish class, and it remains a favorite for world language teachers.  However, excitement about it has spread, and I now know science and CTE teachers who also regularly play it.


The game is simple.

Write a series of words that your class has been studying on different spots on your whiteboard.  If you have a BenQ , Smartboard, or projector you could also project them from a computer file (such as PowerPoint or Word).

Divide your class into two large teams. Have one representative from each team come to the front with a flyswatter.

Provide an example, definition, or clue for one of the vocabulary words.  Once students determine the word, they slap it with the flyswatter. Whoever’s flyswatter lands on the word first scores a point for his or her team.  The defeated player leaves, and the “winner” selects a new challenger from the opposing team.

This routine goes on until all words have been discussed or until a pre-designated score has been reached.

This is a video of Flyswatter that a teacher has posted on YouTube. 

At first, I thought that many students would not been engaged during this game, since only two players are doing the actual swatting. However, I’ve noticed that students really enjoy watching their peers play, seeing whether or not they know the words, and anticipating of when they might be called and what word they will be asked to determine.

I have only used a Flyswatter a couple of times, but, as I said, many of my colleagues love it.  Have you used Flyswatter before? Would you do it again? What do you do differently from what I described in this post? Please share your expertise in the comments.

The Vocab Games: Jeff Ertzberger’s PowerPoint Games

A great vocabulary game resource that I revisit is Jeff Ertzberger’s PowerPoint games site. Jeff Ertzberger serves as the Director of Technology for UNC-Wilmington’s Watson College of Education.  Ertzberger’s site also features game boards that he has created with Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel.  It has visual timers too.  You should definitely check it out because you will be sure to find something you can use!

Here are some students favorites:

Big Wheel


Big Wheel features a wheel that the teacher or a student clicks to spin.  There are several point values on each wedge of the wheel (think Wheel of Fortune).  There is also a space on the screen to record points for up to eight teams.  It is easy for the teacher to say a definition or example, and then allow a team to come up with the correct vocabulary term. When correct, the wheel is spun for points.  There is one caveat. The wheel always chooses point values in the same order each time you play, so I suggest rapidly clicking several times to randomize the point values.

The Racing Games

car_racev2aThere are two racing games that Dr. Ertzberger has developed. One features a car race (Beach Rally), and the other is a horse race.  The teacher can divide the class into teams.  Each time a team responds correctly, the teacher can have their car/horse advance forward.  When the car or horse crosses the finish line, a team wins!

Sunken Treasure

sunkentreasurev2Many teachers say that Sunken Treasure is their students’ favorite game.  After student teams identify a term, they can choose a number between 1 and 36 on the game board grid.  Under one of the squares is the sunken treasure.  When it is found, the game ends. There are ten versions of boards to choose from, so the treasure can always be in a different spot.

Although many people may consider PowerPoint “old-school” technology, these games demonstrate innovative ways that PowerPoints can be designed to engage students.  Have you used PowerPoint in a particularly interesting way with students? Do you know of any other sites where PowerPoint Games can be found?  Please share resources and ideas in the comments.

The Vocab Games: Kahoot!


Imagine your students begging for more vocabulary review.  That is exactly what happens each time I use Kahoot! in the classroom.  If you are unaware of Kahoot, it is an interactive website that turns students’ devices (smartphones, laptops, tablets) into a student response system.  Questions and answer choices are displayed from your projector, and students are able to respond to the questions by using by tapping or clicking on one of the answers displayed on their device.

Check out this video to learn more about Kahoot! and what it looks like in the classroom.

It’s Easy to Use

Unlike many digital tools, students do NOT need to create a log-in to play Kahoot!  When the teacher launches a game, a “game pin” is displayed that enters students into the game.  In addition, creating questions for Kahoot! is fairly straightforward.  If you need help, this online guide can take you through the process step-by-step.  Also, if you want to see an example, this link will take you to a Kahoot! I created with a health science teacher.

Students LOVE It

Nearly every time I have used Kahoot! with students, they have begged to play it again.  What makes it so motivating? Well, there are few things.  In quiz mode, students gain points based on wether they answered correctly and at what speed they answered.  A leaderboard of the top five students is displayed after every question.  In addition, each student’s device informs him or her of which place he or she has after each question. Students also know immediately whether they choose the correct response, and if they didn’t, they lear the correct answer. This immediate feedback motivates students.  In addition, fun music and bright colors make the whole experience fun.  In quiz mode, you can set a timer for how long students all have to respond.  The music becomes increasingly suspenseful  as time begins to run out!

The photo below is me demonstrating a Kahoot! quiz in a world history class.



Not only does Kahoot! provide immediate feedback to students on what they now or don’t know yet, it collects the data for the teacher.  After each game, the teacher can click “Download Results.” Kahoot! then sends a spreadsheet to Microsoft Excel.  The spreadsheet contain each student’s response to each question.  What a great way to know what each student has learned!  In addition, it colors the corrects responses green and the incorrect ones red.  Large columns of red inform me that I need to reteach a word for the whole class.  I can also tell if most students choose the same incorrect response to uncover any student misconceptions that exist.

Kahoot! will engage your students!  To begin creating your own Kahoot!, go to getkahoot.com .

Have you used Kahoot!?  Have you experienced it as a player before? Please talk about your experiences in the comments section.