Greek and Latin Roots in Upper Grade

Grab all these resources HERE!
Several years ago, I started digging into Greek and Latin roots and how they can make such a HUGE difference in students’ academic lives.  Seriously.  Understanding words by applying their knowledge of roots has been a game changer with spelling, comprehension, and vocabulary development.

Over time, I created pieces and plans that worked so well with my students and I’m so excited to share with you.

I know I always say it, but this is what works for us.  This is what works with our time constraints and what works for my students.  With that said, each year is different and I adapt to their needs.
Grab this HERE.
My resource includes everything you need to teach the top 48 Greek or Latin roots but let me be clear: I don’t always get to ALL 48.  What we absolutely do is incorporate root work into our daily schedule, for anywhere from 10-20 minutes each day.

I frequently get asked about my schedule and I think the biggest thing is that from 8-10am every single day (it’s seriously an uninterrupted time), we have language arts.  I block out about 30 minutes of that time for vocabulary instruction and development.

Therefore, Greek and Latin roots (GLR) take up a chunk of that; the other time is spent on our district adopted program called Wordly Wise.

I use a pretty formulaic plan for GLR and the structure and predictability really suit my students.  You can grab all the resources that we use right HERE.

If you follow me on Instagram or read this blog, you probably know that I love for things to be interactive.  Since our LANGUAGE WALL is one of my favorite parts of the day, it made sense to use a similar format with the roots.
I keep language wall pieces and GLR pieces in this same Sterlite box (I got mine at Target).
We do anywhere from 1-2 roots per week (in my resource, I lay out plans for both approaches) but it always starts with whiteboard work.  You could just as easily do this on an anchor chart or under a document camera.

On day one, I will put up a root (the chunkier cards) and have students share out if they know anything about it.  They might have seen it in a word, they might know what it means, or they might not have any prior knowledge.  There is almost ALWAYS one student that knows SOME word containing that root and we use it as a launching pad, applying the pieces (THESE) to build the word. 
We do this part together, whole class, so everyone can get the same exposure.
In the beginning of the year, this is very VERY guided but as time passes, let them take over.  They will be far more invested.

We then move on to the quadrant frame, which for us, gets glued in their composition books.  I do include full-size as well, in case you’d prefer larger.
I just LOVE all that they pull out by working on these!
The quadrant frame can be done whole class or in small groups.  I typically have them work with their reading partner and I allow/encourage them to use a device.  They’re working on dissecting the word and building knowledge.  On day one, I only have them do definition and word examples because I like to build in time to share out.

Day two is all about completing the quadrant frame (again, I usually have mine work with partners but you can do whatever works best for your kids) on the final two quadrants.  For us, I ask them to apply the root and use it in a sentence.  I tie this into our language wall; if we’re studying compound sentences that week, then their application needs to be written as a compound sentence.

The final quadrant is about visualizing, which they love because they get to draw a picture or make a model.  If the root is, for example, ped, then they might draw a foot but my rule is that the root needs to be embedded somehow.  They will get very creative with this and love to share their creations under the document camera.

For us, we glue these quadrants in but SOMETIMES I will collect, review, and then have students glue them in.  Keep them guessing so that investment stays high.

On day three, they add the root to their word list (some years I have them staple it in their language arts folder and some years I use the miniature version and they glue in their composition notebooks.. 

They also use day three to make a flashcard of the root; we do root on the front and definition on the back.  They store these in an envelope and quiz themselves or others all year long.
We spend time at the beginning of every year, setting up our notebooks.
Day four is when I give them about 20 minutes to work on any item off their GLR menu.  For us, students keep a laminated copy of the menu in their folders and do their work on the resources included in HERE.  Again, you can collect each week but I typically don’t collect until the beginning of a new month.  It just feels more manageable for me.

During menu time, I ask that they select one activity and truly spend their time on it.  Some are quicker than others but if they finish early, they know to move on to Must Dos or May Dos.  For me, I use this time to pull small groups or do a running record.  In our class, this is independent work time.
I include different options for exit tickets; they all work for any root.
On day five, they complete an exit ticket and I try to switch these up.  I do expect students to know the root (spelling) and meaning (definition) by the end of the week.  I use the exit tickets in HERE.

We ceremoniously hang the root (the longer cards) on our word wall and I promise you, they WILL refer to these often.  GLR come up across the curriculum but we see them as especially useful in science and social studies.

Granted, some weeks we do TWO roots (many are closely related in meaning which makes it nice!) and in my resource, I lay out a plan to tackle ALL 48 over the course of 30 weeks.

When a student finds a root in a word (a sweet student was SO excited to report that expedition had ped so it must mean feet or movement), they get to come up ring our hotel bell.  Everyone stops, listens to the root, and then goes back to work.
We use this notebook for roots, math, science, AND social studies vocabulary.  One stop shop!
I do believe it makes a huge difference in their learning and in their comprehension!


  1. I love this product and am so grateful to read this post as you describe what it looks like in your classroom. Thank you for sharing with us!

  2. Do you have specific sites that you have them use when doing word work with devices? If so, what are they?
    Thanks! Excited to get started using this!

  3. I love this so much! I have been using Greek and Latin root words, but wanted to change my implementation. I am definitely going to do this next school year. Thank you so much for the wonderful blog post.

    P.s. There is no link for the exit tickets you use for day 5. I would love to know which one you use. Are you able to add/fix the link?

  4. How do use Wordly Wise in conjunction with this? We have that too and it seems to take up a good chunk of time but Root study is is important!

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