Applying Morphology to ESOL Instruction

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  • 0:03 Learning English
  • 0:26 Morphology
  • 0:54 Teaching Morphology
  • 4:16 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kristen Goode

Kristen has been an educator for 25+ years - as a classroom teacher, a school administrator, and a university instructor. She holds a doctorate in Education Leadership.

Morphology as a part of language can be a tricky concept to learn, especially when learning a new language. In this lesson, we'll focus on applying morphology in ESOL instruction.

Learning English

Richard is a native Spanish speaker in a fifth grade classroom at an elementary school in Arizona. He's struggling in his journey to learn the English language, as he has trouble remembering how to manipulate the words he knows in order for his phrases and sentences to make sense. His teacher, Mrs. Snow, is helping Richard learn the basic morphology of the English language.


It's important that morphology is explicitly taught when working with English language learners because morphology in English may differ from that of other languages. In order for learners to acquire the language, English morphology must be a focus of instruction. New rules for language and morphology may initially be confusing for English language learners. Therefore, ESOL teachers should be mindful of techniques for placing necessary focus on these skills.

Teaching Morphology

As ESOL teachers work to help English language learners (ELLs) understand the morphology of the English language, there are several techniques that might make the process easier.

Understand a Learner's First Language

It is helpful for an ESOL teacher to have a basic understanding of a learner's first language, especially the morphology of that language. This will help a teacher assist learners in the transition from one language to another. At the same time, not all teachers can have complete knowledge of all languages students may consider their first. Therefore, it's helpful to understand how to approach the learning of English language morphology from the learner's perspective.

Teach Affixes and Their Placement

In the English language, affixes come in the form of prefixes and suffixes (additions to the beginning or end of words). This is not necessarily the case in other languages. It's important for ESOL teachers to focus on teaching the correct placement of affixes, while focusing on the affixes themselves.

Focus on Cognates and False Cognates

There are many languages that share similarities in basic roots and word derivations. Many of the languages native to learners in the US are Latin in nature (Spanish and French, for example) and share basic cognates. Cognates are words from two different languages that share a similar root. For example, the English word ''study'' translates as ''estudiar'' in Spanish because both languages pull the word from the Latin root ''studium''. The words are similar and mean the same thing, as both are based on the same Latin root. ESOL teachers should focus on these cognates so as to make learning the morphology of English an easier process.

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