Sunday, March 8, 2015

Framing Our Reading - Part 4

Vocabulary and Concept Development
by Juanita Burch

I will use the structural analysis graphic organizer to teach the students about the three chosen content-area words: chemoreceptor, oxidation, and repel. Each word is chosen from one of the articles from a previous module. I chose the structural analysis approach to the graphic organizer because I appreciate the significance of word roots and affixes and I want my students to value their importance as well. McLaughlin mentions the fact that 70% of English words contain Latin or Greek roots, prefixes or suffixes. (McLaughlin, 2015) I think it is essential to emphasize this fact with the students so that they can take a new approach to learning words and begin analyzing word structures, if they do not do so already. The word roots have a major impact on learning in the scientific fields, such as chemistry, biology, medicine and physics. In fact, biology students probably learn more word roots than someone learning a foreign language. Word roots remain a considerable part of the content area, not just in science, but also when studying English literature, in History class and many others. In addition, by highlighting the word roots, prefixes, and suffixes with the students, we are promoting general literacy, not just in the content area. The word roots and affixes are applicable to words they find when reading the newspaper for pleasure, reading comic books, or reading a recipe. I will explain this concept to my students by comparing it to having ten basic pieces in your wardrobe that one can mix and match to create 25 different outfits. Learning the building blocks of words makes it easier to construct a stronger, wider, and richer vocabulary.

Table 1: Structural Analysis Chart (Word Root/Prefix/Suffix)
Taken from Article
Artificial Sweeteners (Marr, 2012)

relating to chemicals



take, hold

the agent or doer of an action

Rewritable paper (Kowalski, 2015)


combining with oxygen

expressing an action, process, state, or result

Metals blast in water (Ornes, 2015)



drive; driven; force

I chose the words chemoreceptor, oxidation, and repel because they are significant to the content area of chemistry/science. A chemoreceptor is a sensory nerve cell or sense organ, as of smell or taste, which responds to chemical stimuli. (The Encyclopedia Britannica Company, 2015) For example, taste buds are chemoreceptors. Understanding the prefixes, root, and suffix will clarify the meaning of the word. The prefix “chemo-” means relating to chemicals, as in chemotherapy. The second prefix “re-” means again. The root “cept-” means to take or hold and the suffix “-tor” means the agent or doer of an action. The word chemoreceptor is not necessarily a word that the students will use frequently, but it was imperative to understand the meaning of the word to fully comprehend the article in which it appeared. (Marr, 2012) Also the concept of receptors will be useful to know because there are other types of receptors in related scientific disciplines, such as biology.

Oxidation used to be described as a process by which an object interacts with oxygen, but recently has been more specifically defined as the process when an atom loses electrons. Oxidation is one half of a very important set of reactions that occur frequently in chemistry. Reduction and oxidation reactions, or “redox” reactions for short, are a major part of one of the units in the Common Core curriculum for eighth grade science. Many everyday household items undergo oxidation, such as apples turning brown in the presence of air (oxygen), metals rusting, and copper pennies turning green. Oxidation is a very common word in chemistry that the students will see frequently from middle school through college; thus it is important for them to fully understand the meaning of the word. By breaking the word down into its root (oxid) and suffix (-ation), the students can easily determine the word’s meaning. The word root “oxid” means to combine with oxygen, such as an oxide. The suffix “-ation” means to express an action, process, state, or result, as in the word “separation.” Thus, oxidation means the act of combining with oxygen. If there is time in the lesson, I may even have a few visuals to help drive home the concept of oxidation for the students (such as cutting an apple and letting it sit out or using vinegar to speed up the reaction of a copper penny turning green). In the reading, McLaughlin mentioned collaborating with other content-area teachers to see if the vocabulary words might relate to the units that they are currently teaching. (McLaughlin, 2015) This would work well if the U.S. History teacher is teaching about the Statue of Liberty because the students could learn why the Statue of Liberty turned green.

I chose the word “repel” from the last article because it is an important concept for the students to learn and it is a word that they will see frequently in chemistry and other sciences, especially physics. Just as opposites attract, like charges repel. This repelling is what causes the metal to cause a large explosion when it interacts with water, which Ornes explains in great detail in his article. (Ornes, 2015) The prefix “re-” means again, as in “reappear” and the root “pel” means drive, driven, or force, as in “dispel.” Thus, the students can clearly grasp that the “repel” means to force something to move away or apart. (The Encyclopedia Britannica Company, 2015)  In the case of Ornes’ article, the students can actually use context clues to determine the meaning of the word “repel” if they do not already know it, but learning the word roots will solidify their understanding as well as help them with other words they may encounter.

The main challenge that I faced when selecting the vocabulary words was that I did not know which words an eighth grader would find challenging. That determination depends on multiple factors and every student is different, coming to the classroom with his own unique background knowledge. Through this process, I confirmed what I learned from this week’s reading which is that the most efficient way to have students learn vocabulary words is to allow them select the words themselves. That way the students will pick words that they find significant instead of the teacher handing down a list of words that the students may already know.

When using the strategy, I discovered that sometimes breaking the words into parts, especially if there are more than three parts to the word, may get too confusing to clearly define the word. Students may still have to use a dictionary to find the ultimate meaning of the word in question. They will nevertheless see the patterns of the roots and affixes if they use the strategy frequently. In a few cases (for words such as cascade and maneuvering), finding the word root proved difficult. I was confused about which part of the word contained the actual root because two different sources provided conflicting information. This was an instance where partner collaboration proved beneficial.

My teammate Amanda Slonaker used the vocabulary self-collection strategy to teach her students the same words and my other teammate, Christine Betley, used the semantic map to teach the words. We found that discussing with each other helped to make certain points more clear and we were able to assist each other with road blocks that occurred. 


Buehl, D. (2014). Classroom Strategies for Interactive Learning (4th ed.). Newark, DE: International Reading Association.
Kowalski, K. (2015, January 15). Rewritable paper: Prints with light, not ink. Retrieved from Society for Science & the Public- Student Science:
Marr, I. (2012, February 1). Artificial Sweeteners: Friends or Foes? Retrieved from
McLaughlin, M. (2015). Content Area Reading: Teaching and Learning for College and Career Readiness. Upper Saddle River: Pearson.
Ornes, S. (2015, February 18). Why metals have a blast in water. Retrieved from Society for Science & the Public - Student Science:
The Encyclopedia Britannica Company. (2015). Definitions. Retrieved from Merriam-Webster Dictionary Online: 

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