Vocabulary Through Morphemes

Teacher(s) - Lisa Doherty and Arlene Welninski
School(s) - Franklin Middle
Grade(s) - 8th (integrated, team taught)


Goal / ObjectiveTeam teachers Lisa Doherty and Arlene Welninski - who led an integrated 8th grade English Language Arts class at Franklin Middle School - noticed that teachers did not have what they described as “materials that directly address vocabulary development [or] materials that support our instruction of morphological awareness.”  

They wanted to fill this gap, and now, with support from the Student Excellence Foundation, they have been able to teach with the Vocabulary Through Morphemes textbook, a word study resource that teaches students common English language prefixes, suffixes, and roots.

Impact - Doherty and Welninski report that using the Vocabulary Through Morphemes resource provided them with a more organized way of teaching vocabulary and of empowering students, not just to learn by rote, but rather to build vocab skills so they understood English language grammar and morphology: that is, how parts of words are used, what they mean, and word etymology.  Within this framework, students were given the tools to understand grammar and to work out word meaning and usage on their own.  As Doherty and Welninski explain, they “saw the kids discussing words, finding words, reading words and spelling words with more ease and frequency.”  

The plan now is to continue using the Vocabulary Through Morphemes resource next year and also to reach out to 6th and 7th grade teachers who might also like to get students involved.

Student feedback and comments on using Vocabulary Through Morphemes (VTM)

  1. Learning about Morphemes will help me.   73% said yes
  2. I thought about compound words differently after a VTM lesson. 77% said yes
  3. I am looking forward to using VTM.  100% said yes
  4. I think I will like playing with words more deeply. 85% said yes
  5. I think VTM will help me grow more than memorizing notecards.  92% yes
  6. I have a hard time remembering the morphemes on my note cards once the test is over.   85% said yes
  7. I understand how to apply the morphemes on the note cards when I read.  85% do not -  this is how Vocabulary Through Morphemes will help
  8. I have noticed morphemes while reading.   69% said yes prior to VTM full use
  9. The note cards have helped me understand more vocab  85% no, the current practice does not help me  
  10. I am glad to be in the VTM [group] than in the other [non-VTM] group.  100%


Do you know a Community School District 200 educator who would like to apply for a Student Excellence Grant? The Foundation offers a Fall and a Spring grant cycle each year. Please feel free to share information regarding grant procedures with any District 200 educator. Classroom teachers, administrators, LLC Directors: any staff member with student contact is eligible to apply!

To read about other grants that have been provided to educators, click here.