Michael Clay Thompson Language Arts: Research Page

Academic research supports the MCT method of teaching.

Scholarly research has shown that the ethos of rigor, structure, and sequence that informs the MCT curriculum is the best way to teach language arts, not only for gifted children but also for normally developing children.

The use of Latin and Greek prefixes, suffixes, and roots is one of the most researched strategies in all of education. It is specifically endorsed by most state departments of education and is an important component in science and math instruction.

Because Latin and Greek are the basis for academic and scientific English, Latin and Greek stems become more common in the terms students encounter as their education advances, and study of the stems provides a method for children to become familiar with the kind of vocabulary that is standard in higher education.


A Study Into the Efficacy of The Word Within the Word

Dr. Shelagh A. Gallagher conducted an exploratory study with ten teachers and 493 students from six middle schools in an urban southeastern school district; she examined specifically the efficacy of using The Word Within the Word in the classroom. It is published in Roeper Review, 39:96-111, 2017. She says:

While there is still much to learn about the efficacy of The Word Within the Word, the results of this initial study indicated higher achievement on measures of vocabulary knowledge, use, and recall using The Word Within the Word when compared to traditional methods of instructing vocabulary. This finding was equally true for gifted and typically developing middle school students in this study, especially in the early middle school years.


A selection of other peer-reviewed articles:

1. Differentiating the Language Arts for High-Ability Learners, VanTassel-Baska, Joyce. The Council for Exceptional Children, ERIC EC Digest #E640, 2003

Gifted children often achieve language competency at an earlier age than their chronological age-mates. High-ability learners may excel in many language arts areas, from reading and literary analysis to creative writing, poetry, and prose. Typically, teaching in the language arts has emphasized reading skills and low-level questions over active learning and inquiry (Lockwood, 1992). Such a low-level emphasis fails to challenge high-ability learners who have mastered the fundamental reading skills and are ready for high-level applications of those skills in critical reading, expository writing, oral communication, linguistic and vocabulary development, and foreign language (VanTassel-Baska, 1996). Thus there exists a real need to differentiate language arts experiences for verbally talented learners at all stages of development.

2. The Latin-Greek Connection: Building Vocabulary through Morphological Study. Rasinski, Timothy V.; Padak, Nancy; Newton, Joanna; Newton, Evangeline. Reading Teacher, 2011

In this article, the authors make a case for teaching vocabulary in the elementary grades through a focus on the morphological structure of words, in particular English words that are derived through Latin and Greek stems. The authors present a set of engaging instructional ideas for the use of Latin and Greek derivations to teach vocabulary and provide classroom-based examples of how a morphological-based vocabulary program can be implemented, as well as its impact on students and teachers.

3. Vocabulary Instruction Goes “Old School.” Kail, Suzanne R. English Journal, 2008

High school teacher Suzanne R. Kail and her students uncover the relevance of learning Latin and Greek stems to enhance vocabulary and spelling. Kail reflects on her experience of combining what might be seen as an old-school practice of memorization with promoting higher-level thinking skills.

4. Familiarity with Latin and Greek Anatomical Terms and Course Performance in Undergraduates. Pampush, James D.; Petto, Andrew J. Anatomical Sciences Education, 2011

Commonly used technical anatomy and physiology (A&P) terms are predominantly rooted in Latin and Greek vocabulary, so it is commonly inferred that a solid grounding in Latin and Greek roots of medical terminology will improve student learning in anatomy and related disciplines. This study examines the association of etymological knowledge of A&P terms and A&P course performance among 446 undergraduates in their first semester of the study of human gross anatomy and physiology, with a more detailed analysis of the characteristics of 52 students who filled out surveys about their prior knowledge and experiences related to medicine or anatomy.

5. An Alternative Approach to Teaching Biological Terminology. Kessler, James W. American Biology Teacher, 1999

This article describes a method of presenting Greek and Latin stems in order to teach biological terminology. It also presents a sample root word list and a related activity.

6. Etymology and Vocabulary Development for the L2 College Student. Bellomo, Tom S. TESL-EJ, 1999

This article demonstrates that etymology as a word attack strategy for second-language students does not offer an unfair advantage to students whose first language is Latin-based (the Romance languages). A significant portion of the English language makes use of Latin stems; therefore, students whose original language is derived from Latin will initially have an advantage in word recognition due to cognates. A pre-test did in fact demonstrate this disparity between the two populations, though near equivalent scores on a post-test demonstrated that both Latin-based and non-Latin-based languages equally benefited from direct instruction that utilized etymology as a word attack strategy.

7. The Effect of Morphological Instruction in Improving the Spelling, Vocabulary, and Reading Comprehension of High School English Language Learners (ELLs). Diaz, Ivan. ProQuest LLC, 2010

The purpose of this study was to determine if morphological instruction (knowledge of the Germanic, Latin, and Greek words and stems of English) was an effective instructional approach toward accelerating the acquisition of spelling, vocabulary, and reading comprehension and closing at least a 6,000 word gap between English language learners and their English-dominant peers. Studies show that there exists a gap between English-dominant high school students who bring 10,000-12,000 words to reading instruction as opposed to the 5,000-7000 words of English Language Learners (ELLs) (Hart & Risley, 1995; Biemiller & Slonim, 2001). For many ELLs, this gap has resulted in school failure, higher dropout rates, and dead-end careers (Fleishman, 2004). One possibility for closing this gap is “Morphological Instruction,” which can provide learners with expansive knowledge of the Germanic, Latin, and Greek words and stems of English. This knowledge can help students acquire meanings of unfamiliar, morphologically complex words and expose them to the structure of English from a cross-language perspective through structural linguistic elements that have rarely been included in the current language arts or English curricula (Fashola, Drum, Mayer & Kang, 1996).

8. The Frequency and Percentage of Words Containing Latin Prefixes and Roots in the Harris-Jacobson Core List. Luyster, Ellen M. 1980

A study is described in this paper that was conducted to determine the frequency and percentage of words containing Latin prefixes and roots in the “Harris Jacobson Core List” (Basic Elementary Reading Vocabularies, 1972). The results of the study indicate that the percentage of words containing Latin stems increases significantly with each grade level, and a total of 13 Latin prefixes and 17 Latin roots were found to occur ten or more times. It is concluded that knowledge of certain Latin prefixes and roots will provide clues to the meanings of a significant number of words in the “Harris Jacobson Core List.” Generalizations are provided to help instructors and pupils more easily recognize Latin stems in English words, and related research is reviewed on the usefulness of teaching Latin stems to improve English vocabulary skills.

9. Phonemes, Phonetics, and Phonograms: Advanced Language Structures for Students with Learning Disabilities. Yoshimoto, Ronald. Teaching Exceptional Children, 1997

This article describes the Advanced Language Structures program, a language program for students in grades K-12 who are gifted or gifted/at-risk or who have dyslexia/learning disabilities. The program emphasizes prefixes, suffixes, and Latin/Greek stems to provide students with strategies for reading and spelling higher-level words and developing vocabulary. The scope and sequence of advanced language structures are illustrated.

10. Word Roots in Geometry. McIntosh, Margaret E. Mathematics Teacher, 1994

This article offers suggestions for a unit on word study in geometry, including defining, recognizing, producing, and appreciating the concepts of geometry. It includes lists of terms and Greek and Latin stems.


For an extended list of scholarly research supporting the use of Latin and Greek roots in teaching English vocabulary, go to the ERIC website.


Visit this page to find out about Michael’s workshops and presentations. To inquire about booking Michael Clay Thompson for a workshop or conference, contact Dr. T.M. Kemnitz, Royal Fireworks Press: phone: (845) 726-4444; fax: (845) 726-3824; email: mail@rfwp.com.

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