Does Teaching Morphology Improve Vocabulary?

Does teaching morphology improve students’ vocabulary?

Short answer:

Long answer:
See my recently published article here.

Medium-length answer:
The theory behind morphological instruction is that if you teach students Greek and Latin roots and/or common prefixes and suffixes, students will be able to apply that knowledge to figure out the meanings of new words. Most studies teach word parts with sample words to illustrate the stem or affix.

More morphological knowledge should result ultimately in more knowledge of new words.

But it doesn’t.

I found that teaching word parts has only a small and non-significant effect on a student’s ability to figure out the meaning of new words (d = .04).

If you read the actual studies, though, you’d find that the researchers who did them think it was a great success! Why the different conclusions?

Because the researchers counted the gains on the sample words as well as the new words.

Obviously, kids taught a set of words will know more of those words than kids who are not taught those words.

The issue is how kids do on new words with those same morphological parts. On those words, there was no difference.

Rather than spending time teaching kids morphology, perhaps we give them more time doing what we know really works to improve vocabulary: reading.



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