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It's All in the Family

Do strangers sometimes recognize you simply because you look like your brother, mother, or cousin? Words belong to families, too, and connecting them to their roots helps define them.

  • Grade 4
    Grade 5
    Grade 6
  • 30 to 60 minutes
  • Directions

    1. Introduce the lesson by listing new words that have entered our language over the past one hundred years due to new ideas and inventions such as telephone, astronaut, and microwave. Discuss the Greek and Latin origins for these words. Ask students to think of other English words that contain similar root words (telegraph, astronomy, microscope, etc.). Talk about how groups of words with the same root form a word family.
    2. Have students divide into small groups. Provide a list of common roots and their meanings. Ask each group to select one root word and make a list of English words that belong to that family. One student in each group should write the group’s root word and an explanation of its meaning on a long, horizontal piece of poster board and add an appropriate illustration. Other students in the group should each select one of the words from the group’s list and illustrate it using Crayola® materials and scraps of heavy paper cut into shapes representing their words. Ask each student to also create a second shape and write the given word and its origin on it.
    3. Invite groups to create mobiles by hanging their visual images and verbal explanations from the original root words with short pieces of string. Display the mobiles in the classroom.
    4. Encourage students to look at what other groups have made. Discuss the images. In what ways do individual words relate to other words in their families?
  • Standards

    LA: Know and apply grade-level phonics and word analysis skills in decoding words.

    LA: Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings.

    LA: Acquire and use accurately grade-appropriate general academic and domain-specific words and phrases; gather vocabulary knowledge when considering a word or phrase important to comprehension or expression.

    SS: Describe ways in which language, stories, folktales, music, and artistic creations serve as expressions of culture and influence behavior of people living in a particular culture.

    VA: Students will investigate, plan and work through materials and ideas to make works of art and design.

  • Adaptations

    Hold an artists’ “opening” the day the mobiles go on display. Invite students to circulate among the mobiles observing what other students have made.

    Can they suggest additional words for some of the word families? Encourage discussion among students. If refreshments are desired, a few students might want to make food items related to their words such as cookies cut in the shapes of stars, dinosaurs, or telephones.

    Ask students who have begun to study a foreign language to think of words in the foreign language that contain some of the roots they have been studying.

    Make a word wall with the roots students have selected. Add new words to it as the year progresses. Encourage students to look for words with these roots in newspapers, magazines, their textbooks, and other things they are reading.


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