How to Boost Students’ Vocabulary: Part 2.


From MoE: What Works? Research into Practice. Research Monograph #41: Morphology Works 

Morphology describes how words are composed of meaningful parts. It is fundamentally related to semantics, but it also provides clues about how words should be written and pronounced.
1. Both the quantity and quality of word knowledge are very important.
2. Morphological awareness predicts reading development.
3. Teaching morphology increases vocabulary and reading achievement. (Kirby & Bowers 2012)

Improving students’ vocabulary through morphological awareness

Vocabulary knowledge and morphological awareness are intertwined. Being able to break words apart to find meaning is an important skill as students come across new words in the content areas (Green, 2015).

In 2000, the National Reading Panel identified vocabulary instruction as one of the five essential components of reading instruction, and a large body of research indicates the critical role vocabulary knowledge plays in reading comprehension (Manyak, 2014). Vocabulary knowledge is critical to the long-term literacy development of all students, and high-quality vocabulary instruction should be a priority for teachers across all grades (Graves, et al 2014).

  • Students from low-income and non-English-speaking families, face a large deficit in English vocabulary knowledge upon entrance to and throughout their school years
  • the continuing deficit in vocabulary knowledge experienced by many students represents a major obstacle to academic achievement in vital areas such as reading comprehension (Manyak, 2014).


Approximately 70% of English words contain Greek or Latin prefixes, suffixes, or roots. By teaching students how to tap into this deep-rooted system of meaning that underlies most English words, we help them generate a more extensive and deeply grounded vocabulary (Flannigan et al, 2012).

Academic texts contain up to 200,000 different words and, the majority of words in academic texts are morphologically complex, which means that they are made of multiple units of meaning. These words “convey abstract, technical, and nuanced ideas and phenomena that are not typically examined in settings that are characterized by social and/or casual conversation. This makes them more formal and therefore less well known (Goodwin & Perkins, 2015).

As students progress through the school system, they are exposed to increasingly complex levels of content, therefore, they need more precise tools (i.e., academic vocabulary) and more knowledge of how those words are used within discipline-specific registers (i.e., academic language in content-specific texts). Research in content area vocabulary has demonstrated the effectiveness of teaching Greek and Latin word roots, especially for struggling readers (Padak, 2008).

Morphologically complex words can be divided into three major categories:

  1. Compounds – words are composed of two or more words (Dragonfly)
  2. Inflections – words with suffixed morphemes that denote tense (walked), number (boys), and adjectival comparisons (taller, tallest). (suffix does not change the meaning)
  3. Derivations – words are formed with roots, prefixes, and suffixes.

Derivational morphological awareness is essential to word solving complex words. Green (2015) states :

  • while all three categories need to be taught, derivational morphological awareness, (the ability to use the understanding of word formation to gain meaning through the knowledge of roots and affixes) requires the most focus and attention as it is the most useful for solving word meaning and identifying grammatical function.
  • starting in Kindergarten, students should begin to learn about roots and affixes. For example JK/SK students can learn re- and un-
  • teachers should focus on high utility words that have a large lexical family* with cross-curricular applications since there are more opportunities to see the base…if the suffix is unfamiliar, root/base familiarity can assist in determining the meaning.
  • Teachers need to give students a multiple opportunities to connect with roots & affixes on a deeper level through interactive and hands-on activities rather than simply having them fill in worksheets.

Which roots and affixes should be taught?

Teachers, especially those teaching multiple subjects, sometimes feel overwhelmed with teaching content and wonder how they can possibly squeeze in vocabulary instruction on top of everything else they are responsible for. Spending just 5 to 10 minutes a day focusing on high utility root words, that have large lexical families, such as equi-, trans-, mono-, etc., (lists below) and morpheme-combining principles can help students quickly learn significantly more words than can be taught with traditional words lists. This not only helps students to rapidly expand their cross-curricular vocabulary, but also helps them to word solve unfamiliar complex words and improves spelling and comprehension. Goodwin & Perkins state: 60% of words can be figured out using knowledge of the units of meaning and 12 Latin roots and two Greek roots can be combined with prefixes to make up 100,000 words.

Take Action! from Graves, 2014
  1. Select  informational texts that contain  challenging vocabulary.
  2. Identify  complex words in the text.
  3. Identify the subset of these words that students need to understand the text or that represent important concepts in the content area represented by the text.
  4. Identify those words that students can infer the meanings of using their contextual or morphological analysis skills.
  5. Decide which of the words require in-depth instruction and which can be taught with brief explanations.
  6. Edit the lists for any given text  so there is a manageable number to teach, no more than 12 and preferably somewhat fewer.

Words that have a large lexical family* download list:  HIGH UTILITY ROOTS

1.Roots & Affixes

From Padak et al 2008

2.Roots & Affixes

From Padak et al 2008

3.Roots & Affixes

From Padak et al 2008

The Cognatarium  is a website that divides all of the listed English words into their constituent parts, or morphemes. The Cognātarium contains over 2,600 morphemes. Morphemes are listed alphabetically. You can type in a root word and it will generate a list of words with that root.  To access  The Cognātarium click here

Cognat.JPGROOT WORDS & AFFIXES: LISTS content-area-roots

What Works? Research into Practice. Research Monograph #41: Morphology Works .WW_Morphology (1)


Section 23 Library



 1. Developing a Growth Mindset in Teachers & Staff

click here to read the full article:


2. Resources for Teaching Growth Mindset

click here to read the full article:



3. Nurturing Intrinsic Motivation and Growth Mindset in Writing

click here to read the full article:



If you want to get regular access to more articles like these sign on to Twitter and follow the Section 23 Library

Screentime Is Making Kids Moody, Crazy and Lazy

Screentime Is Making Kids Moody, Crazy and Lazy. 6 Ways Electronic screen time makes kids angry, depressed and unmotivated. by Victoria L.Dunkley M.D. Psychology Today. Accessed Jan 14, 2016

“Children or teens who are “revved up” and prone to rages or—alternatively—who are depressed and apathetic have become disturbingly commonplace. Chronically irritable children are often in a state of abnormally high arousal, and may seem wired and tired. That is, they’re agitated but exhausted. Because chronically high arousal levels impact memory and the ability to relate, these kids are also likely to struggle academically and socially.” (Dunkley 2015). Image from Psychology Today.


  1. Children’s brains are much more sensitive to electronics: it doesn’t take much electronic stimulation to throw a sensitive and still-developing brain off track.
  2. Screen time interferes with the sleep cycle. Even minutes of screen stimulation can delay melatonin release by several hours and desynchronize the body clock. Small changes in dopamine sensitivity can impact how a child feels and functions. Animal studies show that exposure to screen-based light before or during sleep causes depression, even when the animal isn’t looking at the screen.
  3. Throws the brain’s reward centre out of whack. Gaming releases dopamine, the feel good chemical. But when reward pathways are overused, more and more stimulation is needed to experience pleasure.
  4. May cause depression and meltdowns. Screen time bombards a child with high visual and cognitive input which depletes mental energy and interferes with mood regulation.
  5. Reduces the time children spend being physically active. Physical activity has been found to promote a sense of well-being and reduced stress.

To read the full Psychology Today Article article click here

If you want to get regular access to more articles like these sign on to Twitter and follow the Section 23 Library


What I Learned on Twitter Today.

When many of us think of Twitter, @justinbieber  may be the first thing that comes to mind, or  possibly the role that Twitter played in keeping people engaged and connected during the Arab Spring. We generally don’t think of Twitter in terms of its role in education. By not tapping in to Twitter, however, teachers are missing out on an opportunity to connect with colleagues, local and international educators, education experts and learning networks.

I thought Twitter was just another social media blackhole… I began to see Twitter as an excellent resource for educators and an invaluable tool for professional development – one of the best out there. So, for you teachers wondering about all the hype…I promise, Twitter is worth it (Scavitto 2015).


Twitter has grown from a small niche microblogging site to a news channel, where you can get news from anyone – big or small, unfiltered, directly from the source, and in real-time… A truly useful Web resource for educators. Educators on Twitter share what works for them and discuss everything from education reform to the nitty-gritty of using tech in the classroom (Education World).

Early years.JPG

At first glance, Twitter doesn’t appear to hold much value. Who cares about Justin Bieber’s haircuts! In fact, we both saw it as a waste and quit using it two or three times until we truly understood the organizational structure of information within this tool. Learning how to filter through tweets, organized using hashtags, will bring clarity and meaning to Twitter and will get you past the mosh pit of random thoughts and lackluster chitchat.(Educational Leadership, 2010)


Twitter has been harnessed by educators and education experts around the world to build networks, stay connected and share resources about every possible topic one could imagine related to education.

Twitter is definitely one of the most popular tools for teachers’ professional development. Education communities are filling the tweeting space #edchat, #edtech #sschat are but some examples. It might be because of its simplicity and ease of use that teachers flock to it , others attribute it to the brevity of its messages. No matter what the reasons are, Twitter has become not only an effective communication platform for teachers and educators from all around the globe, but also an affinity space where these people get to meet each other, talk and discuss current issues in education and most important of all share and learn from each other’s expertise.


The TDSB has a significant presence on Twitter, including many Elementary and Secondary Schools, John Malloy, Peter Singh, Early Years, STEM, Language and Literacy, the Tippett Profesional Library, Speech and Language and most of the departments, Instructional Leaders and coaches. Edugains, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Child and Youth, and leading experts in the field of education also have an active presence. Twitter is one of the most useful ways to publish, or get access to useful current information on education topics in a timely manner.


For educators who use this tool to build a network of people whose Twitter messages connect to their work, Twitter becomes a constant source of new ideas to exploreSome people have one account as an educator, another for classroom activities, and another as an individual. You have to decide what works best for you – and what works in terms of your school’s policies and your own level of comfort with what you share online (Scavitto 2015).


How schools and teachers use Twitter:

  • Allow parents and the community to stay connected to the school by informing them  about initiatives, events going on in the school or classroom, and to alert parents instantly to school closures, problems, or emergencies in the school.
  •  Communicate with students regarding assignments, tests, quizzes, events, goals, expectations etc.
  • Share ideas and resources with learning communities in the school, school board or around the world
  • Connect with others interested in the same topics, such as STEM, Special Education, Kindergarten, Literacy and Numeracy, Social Studies, Autism, The Arts, Sports, etc
  • Get access to professional development, policy changes, new resources, new educational content. Hear from experts who provide links to useful information


Creating an account on Twitter is easy, just go to:

Many Section 23 teachers already have Twitter accounts. It would be great if we could establish a broader and more cohesive system to communicate regularly with each other instead of just at staff meetings. If you do not have a Twitter account and would like to get one, just click on the link,enter your email and a password to set up an account and you ‘re ready to get started. For those teachers who are leery about signing on to Twitter, some things that might change your thinking:

  • When you sign on, you can use a “handle” instead of your own name. A few teacher handles I’ve come across on Twitter are @1GRTeacher and @8M7 so you can be creative if you don’t want to use your name
  • Don’t feel pressured to tweet, retweet or have followers if you don’t want to.
  • You don’t need to upload a picture nor include any info about yourself
  • If you don’t add any personal info, this is how you will appear.Twitter copy

By just signing on, you can still reap the benefits of Twitter by simply following Section23, organizations, experts or TDSB instructional leaders. Even though the body of the tweet may be brief, most organizations provide links within the tweet to articles or resources. Tweets from those you follow will show up on your timeline and you can choose to read what you are interested in and retweet if you want to.



I’ve created a hashtag, #TDES23, which I add to tweets and retweets that I feel might be useful for Section 23 staff. If you become actively involved with Twitter, and would like to tweet, retweet and share info with Section 23 colleagues, add the #TDES23 and tweets will be easy to find in one place when anyone searches that hashtag.


Recommended ArticleTeachers: Embrace Twitter for Professional Development


Follow Section 23 Library on Twitter:



Never buy another magazine when you can get it free through the Toronto Public Library. If you are a Toronto resident or work in Toronto, you can get a TPL library card, create an account  and sign out online magazines through Zinio on the TPL site. There are 47 magazines available.







Think Like a Librarian, Act like a Visual Merchandiser

How do we get students to read more? 

  1. Provide books they want to read: do interests and attitude surveys regularly. Like adults, kids have very broad interests — they may not be interested in reading the trending YA book such as the Hunger Games, nor even be interested in reading fiction.
  2. Book publishers and book retailers spend large sums of money on marketing, cover art and showroom displays — borrow some of those ideas for your classrooms and libraries.
  3. Allow time in class for independent reading of self-selected books/ magazines and time for discussion about books
  4. Less is more, so get rid of old books that no-one wants to read, even if you loved it as a kid! (it doesn’t matter if they are in great condition). Books from the last century picked up at  garage sales or thrift stores need to be tossed in the bin.


IMPORTANT: Conduct regular student attitudes and interests surveys to inform your book purchases, example from CASI


Visual Merchandising – 4 principles

  • Keep it simple and make the right first impression (create interesting book displays that change regularly)
  • Less is more  (weed, weed, weed )
  • If you can’t see it, it won’t sell (book covers should face out)
  • De-clutter and organize (make it easy for kids to take books off the shelf or display)

display2 copy.jpg



You can also get ideas for improving your library displays from books on Visual Merchandising. The Toronto public library has a number of books available: N=&No=10&Ntt=visual+merchandising

Also check out Youtube videos on visual merchandising for book sellers. Here’s an example: BOOKSTORE 


pdf of infographic:2.THINK LIKE A LIBRARIAN

Check out this post: How to Build a Better Library







Read-Aloud: “A key instructional strategy in which the teacher selects a book that is beyond what children can read on their own and reads it aloud to the class to promote a love of reading; to improve children’s level of comprehension; to build children’s knowledge of vocabulary and language structures; to expose children to “book language” (literary text or devices); and to demonstrate reading strategies.”  
FREQUENCY: DAILY. Ontario Ministry of Education (MoE)
An extensive body of research shows that the interactive read aloud is the cornerstone of literacy instruction. Through daily read alouds, teachers are able to introduce and explore with children, complex ideas and language they would be unable to read on their own, and introduce vocabulary that would be unlikely to come-up in casual conversation. Read alouds should not be limited to early learning, nor to fiction.  They can be highly effective when used strategically and skillfully with fiction and non-fiction texts in classrooms from Kindergarten to Grade 12. 
IMPORTANT: Research suggests that the ‘old-school’ read-aloud, where the adult reads and the child listens quietly, may be effective in settling a child down before bedtime, but has very little literacy benefit.  Therefore, the daily read aloud, no matter how brief, should include at the very least, a picture walk* and allow time for students to talk about the book. 
In order to maximize the effectiveness of the highly strategic read aloud, that is meant to explore big ideas or language conventions,  the read aloud must be purposeful and carefully planned. “Teachers can’t simply grab a book off the shelf and read it in the hopes of having an effective interactive read-aloud (Hilden 2013).”  Strategic read alouds, therefore, should include: before, during and after activities, which are dependent upon the focus of the read aloud (Beers 2003). 
The most effective read aloud for reading difficult texts, modelling strategies and teaching  complex vocabulary, and complex & abstract ideas in fiction and non-fiction, is the read aloud/think aloud. It teaches students how to navigate and really get down into difficult texts…it “makes the strategies that skilled readers use, transparent to the learner (Beers 2003).”
The read aloud/think aloud can be used as a stand-alone strategy to focus on 1 or 2  specific reading skills at a time, or to introduce a theme, unit or topic. When carefully planned and implemented, the read aloud/think aloud strategy has the capacity to assist students in making extraordinary leaps in reading proficiency at all grade levels
FREQUENCY READ ALOUD/THINK ALOUD :  Minimum of one per week. Depending on the complexity, one text may be re-read several times, or over several days.
Even though the significant benefits of the read aloud/think aloud are well-documented, this strategy is the most likely to be misunderstood, underused, or completely avoided by teachers (Hilden 2013). Teachers report that they either think it requires too much planning, or their students “would find it too difficult.”  Oftentimes, teachers working with early, emergent or struggling readers believe, in error, that the primary focus should be on “learning the basics,” which generally translates as word reading and literal meanings. This  type of thinking suggests that fully understanding and synthesizing the deeper layers of meaning in texts is somehow a “luxury” reserved for when students “graduate” from the emergent stage of reading. Unfortunately, this undermines the main purpose for reading, which is always for meaning.  
In Section 23 Programs, K-3 classrooms are supplied with Nelson Literacy Cross-curricular kits which provide detailed lesson plans for read-alouds. Each of the kits are designed to be implemented over 2- 6 weeks and include 3 or 4 picture books, which are connected to the content. As evidence-based research recommends, these books generally fall into the “difficult range,” that is they are 1 to 2 grade levels above students’ reading level but are at the listening comprehension level of students.
1) set the purpose for the read
2) provide detailed before, during and after strategies which guide the teacher through repeated readings of the stories
4) provide prompts for discussion
6) provide suggestions for response and extension activities.
Once teachers and students have had the opportunity to become familiar with the read loud/think aloud format, skills can be adapted as necessary and transferred to other difficult texts.
“Realize that regular practice of those guidelines over time (and not the amount of time) builds mastery. One spectacular read-aloud event by itself will not do much, but if delivered consistently, they will build student skills over time. When students identify the read aloud segment as the single most meaningful part of their day, you’ll know you’ve hit your target (Puett Miller 2014).”
Picture walk*A pre-reading activity in which children review the pictures and other graphic material (e.g., charts) in a text, as well as picture titles and captions, to predict the content of the text. (MoE)
Attached: Ontario Ministry of Education  (MoE) Read Aloud/Think Aloud Framework: Click here to download: read-aloud framework
  • Beers, K.(2003). When Kids Can’t Read What Teachers Can Do.Heinemann    
  • Harte, A. Williams-Taylor, C. & Chang, G.L. (2011).  Literacy K-12: Teaching & Learning, expected practice seriesp.3. TDSB. Toronto.            
  • Hilden, K  & Jones, J.  (2013). Effective Interactive Read-Alouds Build Stronger Comprehension. Reading Today.  Vol. 30 Issue 5.       
  • Lane, H. B. and Wright, T.L. (2007). Maximizing the effectiveness of reading aloud.Reading Teacher. Vol. 60 Issue 7, p668­675. 8p
  • MOE. (2003) A Guide to Effective Reading: Kindergarten to Grade 3. Ch. 7        
  • MOE eworkshop.  (2014)            
  • Puett Miller, C. (2014).  A Shared Experience:The Key to Effective Read Alouds. Education World.      

Check out this NY Times article on a 2014 Scholastic Survey on the benefits of reading to children of all ages: Study Finds Reading to Children of All Ages Grooms them to Read More on Their Own New York Times