Greek & Latin Roots

I am so excited to have Michael Rawls as guest blogger today! He shares an engaging way to teach Greek and Latin Roots, (a lesson inspired by Hope King from Elementary Shenanigans). Make sure you read to the end because there are a couple of freebies included!

Why teach Greek and Latin roots? For starters, there has been a big push in our district – and in Common Core – to focus on teaching Greek and Latin roots. According to, “over 60 percent of all English words have Greek or Latin roots. In the vocabulary of the sciences and technology, the figure rises to over 90 percent.” In that case, beyond district and state mandates, it totally makes sense that students should be taught these roots to make sense of new vocabulary they encounter in both fiction and nonfiction text. 

For this assignment, each of my students was assigned a Greek or Latin root (from a list of 30 common, high-mileage roots). To be fair, I used to generate student numbers. When the student’s number appeared, they got to select the root they wanted to research. I also took the time to show some pictures of students who had completed a similar assignment from Hope King’s blog. This got kids thinking about the creation of their own superhero disguise. 


Students were given two weeks to research the meaning of the root, make a list of words using the root, and create a superhero character based on the root. The superhero’s costume and super-power had to be directly linked to the meaning of the root. Superhero costumes should allow other students in the class to infer what root inspired the disguise without directly giving it awayFor example, a crown of pencils might reveal the root graph, a cape with the map of the world might reveal the root geo, or a mask of moons and stars might reveal the root ast. This is where students really got an opportunity to be creative. I required that the costume have at least 2 of the four components (hat, gloves, mask, cape), but most students included 3 or all 4. 

Students also wrote a short story (it had to fit on a 4 x 6 index card due to time constraints and having 29 students in class) explaining how the superhero gained his or her superpower using as many of the words containing the root as possible.

Greek and Latin Roots

One of the greatest things about this assignment was there was no need to purchase instructional materials – no task cards, graphic organizers, or games were required. I knew which students in my class would have minimal parental involvement or might struggle finding things around the house or have no access to purchase items for their costumes. Those students were provided with necessary items – construction paper, string, craft-supplies, and the like to pull together a successful costume. 

On the day of presentations, students had a recording sheet with all of the roots that would be presented. This held students accountable for recording the meaning of each root as classmates presented their speeches and costumes.

Because I have 29 students, I broke up the student presentations with breaks in between so as to not lose anyone’s attention. We played Greek and Latin root Bingo, had a Greek and Latin root relay race, and watched the Flocabulary video for Greek and Latin roots in between presentations. Basically, by the time we added in recess, specials, and lunch, it became an all-day event. 

Now, we have a word wall made of posters of each root. As students discover words with Greek or Latin roots in their own reading or in units or lessons we are studying, they add words to the word-wall. It’s amazing how many of these powerful roots students find in their everyday reading.

Here’s a peek at some of the creative ways my students personified their assigned roots:

greek and latin roots

Click on the images below to download the handouts that go with this lesson!

Two-page recording sheet:


Superhero planning sheet: 

(Note: the black edges appear only in the image, not in the actual download – in case you’re worried about ink!)