When I was a freshman in high school, I was given the great challenge of reading The Odyssey. Embarrassingly, I spent most of the book wondering whether the Trojan War was real or not! As a teacher, I think about how being exposed earlier to Greek mythology could have saved me lots of confusion and aided my linguistic skills.

Greek Mythology
Greek Mythology

Greek roots may be part of your scope and sequence, but exactly how do Greek roots help our elementary students? And how can Greek mythology teach our students roots?

Why You Should Teach Greek Roots

Greek roots might seem like an outdated concept, but it can come with big benefits for your students. Here are a few reasons why I recommend teaching root words.

  1. Aides Comprehension – When students are reading, it’s unlikely that they will stop to look up every word they don’t know. This can pose an issue to their overall comprehension of the text. By understanding root words, suffixes, and prefixes, students can predict what a word means based on the meaning of it’s parts – no dictionary needed.
  2. Word Patterns – Greek and Latin roots follow consistent patterns. For this reason, understanding the root words can help students be better spellers and assist them with pronouncing new and unfamiliar words.
  3. Expanding Vocabulary – Each year, students are introduced to thousands of new words, both conversational and academic. By understanding roots, students don’t have to feel overwhelmed with a rush of new vocabulary. Especially when it comes to academic vocabulary, knowing roots will help students make sense of new words easily.

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How Greek Mythology Helps with Greek Words

The next natural question is, “How do you teach Greek roots to elementary students?” There are several ways to teach root words, but my favorite is through Greek mythology!

Greek mythology offers an authentic way to engage in word study and expose students to the genre of mythology (so they don’t end up confused like I was!). My all time favorite book to guide students through Greek mythology and roots is Percy Jackson and the Oylmpians: The Lightning Thief.

My students love this book each year we read it, and they walk away with an interest in mythology and deeper knowledge of Greek roots. Incorporating Greek roots into your novel unit is really simple. Here are a few tips:

  1. Give your students a selection of vocabulary for each chapter. In this vocabulary list, be sure to include some words that contain Greek roots. Tell your students what the root means, and have them formulate a definition. Don’t forget to check their answers!
  2. Teach students a few common Greek roots that they will see throughout the text. Have them take note of these in their journal. As you read, when you come across a word that uses one of the roots, stop and discuss what the word means.
  3. Give students a few words from a chapter or section of the book that contain the same Greek root. Provide students with the definitions for those words. Then, have students write down what they think the root word means.

Percy Jackson and the Oylmpians: The Lightning Thief is a great mythology text to choose for Greek roots because it does offer a wide variety of Greek root words, and it’s written for middle grades level readers!

Want to use Percy Jackson in your classroom?

I have a novel unit that includes everything you need to engage your students in the novel. This unit includes vocabulary sheets for each chapter, comprehension questions for each chapter, graphic organizers, and more! Check out the mythology novel unit here!

If you want to check out the blog post about Fairy Tales and using them in your upper elementary classroom, check that out here!

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