Generative Vocabulary for Reading Comprehension

As an instructor, my goal is to give students tools they can apply to novel problems and situations. Students with broad vocabularies carry well-stocked toolboxes for decoding texts. However, my work of inspiring students to engage with texts inside and outside of the classroom means I can never predict the full scope of the tools they will need. Generative vocabulary lessons help students acquire the raw materials to build comprehension tools. Teaching students to identify and understand the prefixes, suffixes, and roots within a variety of words gives them the knowledge they need to construct meaning when encountering unfamiliar terms. For students acquiring English as an additional language, generative vocabulary knowledge enables students to decode a large body of the novel words they will encounter.

Sample Lesson & Unit Incorporating Generative Vocabulary

Lesson: Poe’s Spooky Vocabulary
Unit Outline: Feeling Autumntime
Lesson: Poe’s Spooky Vocabulary

Generative Vocabulary 
Grade: 9th Grade                                                                          
Timeline: 15 minutes
Students’ Required Background Knowledge: Students have had prior morphology instruction detailing how prefixes and suffixes attach with base morphemes to create words. The class has started generating a list of common prefixes and how they change words (ex. “-er” changes the verb “dance” into the noun “dancer”).
Materials: The teacher will guide the lesson using a Google Slides presentation. Students will use a physical copy of the instructional reading (excerpt from Edgar Allen Poe’s The Cask of Amontillado) and two graphic organizer handouts to complete the lesson.
Technology Integration: Powerpoint Presentation.
Stage 1 – Desired Results
Minnesota ELA Standards:,,,

Students will understand how learning the meaning of common Greek/Latin “roots” can help them decode the meaning of other words that share the same root. Students will understand that affixes can attach to the roots and alter their meanings.

Essential Questions: 

How can discovering the meaning of the Greek/Latin roots help us decode the meaning of unfamiliar words with the same Greek/Latin roots?

Students will know (declarative knowledge)

Students will know the meaning of Greek/Latin root(s) within the words [resolved, precluded, impunity, and retribution]. They will know other words that share the same Greek/Latin roots.

Students will be able to do (procedural knowledge): 

Students will be able to explain how the meaning of the vocabulary words [resolved, precluded, impunity, and retribution] relate to the meaning of the Greek/Latin root. They will be able to generate a list of other words that use the same Greek/Latin roots and have a meaning related to the vocabulary words.

Stage 2 – Assessment
Performance Tasks: 

  • Peer Instruction: Students work in small groups to define a vocabulary term and its Greek/Latin root and write it on the board for their peers.
  • Formative Assessment: Students will complete a graphic organizer that demonstrates they can define the vocabulary terms in their own words.
Other Evidence: 

  • Instructors will monitor which students are participating in the group work and peer teaching activities.
  • Teachers will check students’ root and vocabulary word definitions before they share them with the large group.
Stage 3 – Learning Plan
  • Previous Lesson Review (1 minute)
      1. Review of basic morphology: Base morpheme + Affixes (prefixes, infixes, or suffixes = The words we use.
  • Introduction to Reading & Vocab words (2-3 minutes)
      1. Teacher introduces the name and author of the reading
      2. Teacher displays 4 vocabulary words and their roots.
      3. Teacher explains the activity directions (also displayed on the presentation)
    1. Small group work on different Greek/Latin roots (8-10 minutes)
      1. Each group fills out Table 1 for its assigned root and vocabulary word. Table 1 asks the students to generate other words containing the root and to consider the definitions of those words.
      2. The students will write a meaning for their root and vocabulary word on Table 1. An instructor will check the definitions before the class reviews them as a large group.
      3. Each shares their findings with their peers so that they can fill out Table 2.
  • Conclusion (1 minute)
    1. Teacher reviews how the class discovered the meaning of new words by decoding the definition of the affixes and roots.
Table 1 will have some sections filled in for the students as a way of scaffolding the activity and modeling how the students can complete their chart.

Unit Outline: Feeling Autumntime

Feeling Autumntime by AshleyMattei on Scribd