Analysis Of Vocabulary Instruction Goes Old School By Suzanne Kail

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In Vocabulary Instruction Goes “Old School”, Suzanne Kail shares her experiences and trials as she is forced by her school’s English department to have all of her students “learn and memorize Latin or Greek roots and their definitions as a technique to enhance vocabulary skills” (Kail, 63). I will first address Kail’s initial reluctance to teach the Latin roots to her students, followed by the experiences that changed her feelings about the activity. I will then apply content from our unit on cognitive processes that enhance learning and explain why I think specific activities Kail used were effective in promoting meaningful learning. Finally, I will discuss what lessons I may take away from Kail’s and Heltin’s experiences of integrating lower …show more content…
An example of that is “...combining spelling mini lessons with the roots students learn gives a reason to practice spelling new words, and using the roots in other class activities gives the opportunity to practice what they have learned” (Kail, 65). In class, we discussed the significance of retrieval practice. Retrieval practice is especially helpful in student learning because it forces students to pull knowledge out they have learned and apply it. The more opportunities students get to retrieve information from their memory, the better they will remember it. As students used the roots in other class activities, they were simply making more connections, which increases the ways the brain has access to that information. This means that the more connections students were making with the root words, the more likely they will be able to remember that information. Kiel was also asking her students to retrieve the information about the roots they learned when they took weekly quizzes. Through this, students were doing more than rote memorization. They began with rote memorization, but they practiced retrieving that memorized knowledge and applied it and made connections, which pushed meaningful learning.
A lesson I can take away from Keil’s experience is that it is possible to find a way to promote higher level thinking with very simple tasks. Kiel took vocabulary and spelling,
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states, “The theory behind teaching Latin and Greek prefixes, suffixes, and bases...is that it helps build vocabulary more quickly than learning definitions of individual words” (Heltin). This may be because a root word definition may be the same across different words, where definitions of actual words are different. Therefor, learning the definition of one root word may allow students to apply that to figure out the definition of multiple words containing that root. This lays a ground for students to play with vocabulary and “reason through” what it might mean. This is something I can take away from the Heltin article and apply to my own classroom. I remember being in grade school, and stumbling over a new word I didn’t know: monotone. When I asked my teacher what it meant, I was told to look at the root word mono. I remembered that I had learned that mono means one. When I put mono and tone together, I got one tone. I was able to figure out what the word meant by looking at the root word, applying background knowledge, and using context clues. This is something I will do with my students to encourage them to productively struggle with their vocabulary and spelling, for it will promote greater learning and retention. If I simply looked the definition up in the dictionary, my chances of remembering that definition are slim. However, by struggling on my own to figure out what the word means, I am experiencing a

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