Greek & Latin Roots Games & Activities

Instructor: Julie Zundel

Julie has taught high school Zoology, Biology, Physical Science and Chem Tech. She has a Bachelor of Science in Biology and a Master of Education.

Have students use their names as a jumping off point to learning Latin and Greek word origins. Follow this up with creating organisms based on Latin and Greek root words and finish with a game that tests student's ability to figure out how organisms are named based on a Latin and Greek system.

Introduction to Greek and Latin Roots

  • This activity works best as an icebreaker and as a way to introduce Greek and Latin root words.
  • The day before give students a homework assignment that requires them to find out why they were given their first name. If they are unable to determine this, they can look up their name's meaning online. They can also look up the meaning and origin of their last name as an extension. If their name is unique, they can pick a relative's name.
  • The next day, pair up students. Each student will interview his or her partner getting the following information:
    • First and last name
    • Why the student was given his or her first name and/or what that name means
  • Have students sit in a circle and have each student introduce his or her partner to the class
  • Follow this up by explaining that, like your name, Greek and Latin root words have meaning. Although the roots often look scary, if you understand them, you can understand the meaning of a word.
  • If you teach science, this is also a nice lead into genus and species names. Again, like your students, each species has a first and last name (genus and species) that gives us information about it.
  • You can provide students with a list of Greek and Latin roots and give them the translation. Chances are, they will recognize some of the roots from everyday language.
    • For example: 'cent' means hundredth or hundred and can be seen in centimeter and century; 'hemi' means half and can be seen in hemisphere and hemicycle; 'medi' means middle and can be seen in medieval and medium.
  • End the activity by reinforcing that, just like your name, Latin and Greek root words give clues about the object they are named for.

Build a Critter

  • Have a list of Greek and Latin root words. Depending on grade level, you can include suffixes and prefixes.
  • Students need to choose at least 3 root words (or a combination of root words, prefixes and suffixes) and combine them.
  • Then they need to create an organism based on those words.
  • For example, a multi-cephal-canis would require a student draw a dog with multiple heads.

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