Authentic Lessons for 21st Century Learning

It's All Greek to Me

Greek and Latin Roots 

Margaret Salesky, Susan McHale | Published: September 13th, 2022 by K20 Center

  • Grade Level Grade Level 7th, 8th
  • Subject Subject English/Language Arts
  • Course Course Composition, Creative Writing
  • Time Frame Time Frame 100 minutes
  • Duration More 1-2 class period(s)


In this lesson about Greek and Latin roots, students will explore word origins by discovering root words and applying them to their own writing. Students will work in groups and use learning strategies to recognize Latin and Greek roots, then complete a reading and annotation activity to identify English words that are rooted in Latin and Greek. Next, students will complete a writing activity to apply what they've learned, using a rubric to guide and evaluate their writing. While this lesson is currently aligned only to grade 8 standards, it would be appropriate to teach in grades 7 through 8, adjusting standards as needed.

Essential Question(s)

What is the purpose of applying grammar and mechanics? How can knowing roots of words help with reading, writing, and spelling?



Students watch a YouTube clip from the movie "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" and preview word parts.


Students participate in a Honeycomb Harvest activity.


Students "What-Light" a text by finding the words with Greek and Latin roots.


Students write a paragraph that incorporates words with Greek or Latin roots.


Students are evaluated based on their completion of "What-Lighting" and their written paragraphs.


  • Lesson Slides (attached)

  • Honeycomb Harvest Cards (attached, one set per group of 3–4 students)

  • Honeycomb Harvest Answer Key (attached, one per teacher)

  • What-Lighting Paragraph handout (attached, one per student)

  • What-Lighting Paragraph Answer Key (attached, one per teacher)

  • Greek and Latin Roots handout (attached, one per student)

  • Creative Writing Rubric (attached, one per student)

  • Select a Topic Handout (attached, one per student)

  • Internet connectivity (to access a YouTube video link)


Use the attached Lesson Slides to guide the lesson. Display and discuss slides 2–3, which identify the lesson objectives and the essential questions. Tell students that they will be able to answer the guiding questions by the end of the lesson.

Display slide 4 and ask the question, "Where do English words come from?" Have students turn to an Elbow Partner and share their ideas. Allow 1–2 minutes for partners to discuss, and then call on volunteers to share out their ideas. At this point, just listen to ideas without correcting any misconceptions.

Play the short video clip on slide 5 from the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding.

After the movie, ask students where Mr. Portokalos, who is Greek, believes English words come from. Do students believe he is correct? Why or why not?


Many words in English have Latin or Greek root word parts because these languages are more ancient and were intermingled with Germanic languages. For a more comprehensive understanding of the origins of the English language, go here.

Move students into heterogeneous groups of three or four. Ensure that groups are of mixed ability, as students may have different levels of prior knowledge regarding Latin and Greek root words. Display slide 6, and ask students the question posed: How many of these common Greek roots do you know?

Pass out the Honeycomb Harvest card sets that you prepared for each group. Display and discuss slide 7, which provides directions for how to make a Honeycomb Harvest. Tell student groups that they are looking for small honeycombs of words that belong together. Use the example on slide 8 to explain the relationship of roots and their definitions to common English words to create the honeycomb effect. Allow 10–15 minutes for students to complete the activity—matching roots, their definitions, and the English words that developed from the roots.

Allow student groups to share out one of their honeycombs—the root word, its meaning, and examples of English words that use the root word. An answer key is provided in the attachments for your reference.


Explain to students that they now have some knowledge of root words and how that knowledge can help them understand English words. Pass out a What-Lighting handout, highlighter, and Greek and Latin Root handout to each student. ("What-Lighting" is a variation of the Why-Lighting strategy.)

Display slide 9. Ask students to read the paragraph individually, and, while they read, find and highlight the words with Greek and Latin roots. They can use their Root Word handout to help them. Based on the roots and word parts, students should annotate in the margins the definitions of the English words. For example, if students highlighted the word "aquarium" from the root word "aqua," they should annotate in the margins that "aquarium" means a tank that contains water and fish. Allow 20–25 minutes for this activity.

An answer key is provided in the attachments. Students can grade their own handouts or turn them in as an assessment/assignment for this lesson.


Display slides 10–11, and explain to students that they will compose their own pieces of creative writing using English words that have Greek or Latin roots. Pass out a Paragraph Writing Rubric to each student and explain the expectations for a high-quality written paragraph. Pass out the Select a Topic handouts. Using the table in this handout as a guide, students can choose from a bank of options for characters, settings, and creatures to write about in their paragraphs.


Pass out a sticky note to each student. As an Exit Ticket, ask students: How can knowing roots of words help you with reading, writing, and spelling?

Students can also be evaluated on the completion of their highlighted and annotated texts and their creative writing paragraphs.