EDDN 636 – Linguistic Structure of the English Language- Sociolinguistic Perspective provides an understanding of basic linguistic concepts and their applications for TESOL instruction. Specific concepts include phonetics, phonology, morphology, syntax, pragmatics, discourse analysis, and the nature of regional and social variations in American English. Students will explore the origins, diversity, and functions of human languages, in addition to the relationship between language and society. Includes 10 hours of fieldwork.
Yevette Jensen is a first-year teacher in the Central Islip School District. She teaches a 15:1 special education class, “with 12 wonderful students! I am currently getting my master’s in TESOL at Touro and this is a case study I did on one of my students to address her lack of morphological awareness.”
The student that I conducted this case study on is Elizabeth. She is a fifth grade ENL student in a 15:1 special education classroom. One of Elizabeth’s classifications is a Speech and Language Impairment so I felt she would be the perfect student to focus on for the case study. Elizabeth’s biggest struggle out of all the academic areas is reading and writing. According to Courter, “As with receptive and expressive language development, the same components of language- phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, and pragmatics- play a vital role in reading and writing” (p. 7). Throughout observing Elizabeth, it is clear that she lacks morphological awareness. Which is why I feel that she lacks skills in reading and writing.
George Yule (2020) defines morphology as “the study of word forms” (p. 67). More specifically, morphology is the study of morphemes; the smallest unit of meaning in language. Morphological awareness is an important aspect to being successful in reading and writing for all students. However, it is especially important for English Language Learners because it breaks down language and creates patterns of meaning for speakers.
The platform that I was working with to conduct this study was Zoom. While I think Zoom is a great way to connect with students, I did run into some difficulties. The biggest challenge was scheduling a time when the student was able to meet with me. A few times we had scheduled to meet and she was unable to due to complications with the internet and or someone else in her family needed to use the computer for their own work. Another issue was her distractibility. This student is high energy and finds it difficult to stay focused in a classroom setting. Having to do this through a Zoom meeting rather than being one on one and being able to use the strategies I have all year to redirect her was a little frustrating. This new “classroom setting” heightened her distractibility and she had to be redirected several times throughout our sessions just by verbal commands rather than the ticket system she was used to from the classroom. With that being said she did put forth great effort to try and focus on what was being taught to her.
Throughout the school year, I have taught prefixes and suffixes to my students. This is something that Elizabeth has struggled with all year and it continues to be a challenge for her. Not only is she an ENL student, but she also has a learning disability as well as a Speech and Language Impairment. All of these factors together make it more difficult for her to grasp new concepts such as this one. When reading Elizabeth will skip over words that contain prefixes because she does not understand what the word means. She will also omit a prefix or suffix herself and just say the words that are familiar to her. For example, instead of saying “Sarah was unable to tie her shoes” she would take off the prefix “un” and the suffix “s” and just say “Sarah was able to tie her shoe”. This poses as a problem for her because by doing that she is changing the meaning of the words in the sentence entirely. This is one reason why she struggles with reading comprehension because when she skips over or omits prefixes and suffixes, she is changing the meaning of the word from what it was intended to be. Elizabeth does not have the skills to break down words into different parts in order to gain meaning. My goal in doing this specific activity and others that will follow is to improve Elizabeth’s morphological awareness in hopes that her reading comprehension and overall reading skills improve.
The specific activity I am going to talk about is just the beginning of what I am going to be doing with Elizabeth over the next few weeks. This specific activity focused just on prefixes. I picked 3 prefixes that I felt wouldn’t be too challenging for Elizabeth. The prefixes I chose were: non, dis, and un, all three of these prefixes share the same meaning of “not”. I felt it would be better to teach prefixes that have the same meaning in groups to try any eliminate confusion.
I decided to start the lesson/activity with a short YouTube video called Learn about Prefixes. I wanted to play this in order to build a little background knowledge and to refresh her memory of what we did previously in class. After that, I showed her a brief PowerPoint that I created through the screen share feature on zoom. This PowerPoint went over what a prefix is and what a root word is. As well as explaining how a prefix can change the meaning of a word that we already know. After I went over the PowerPoint, I displayed on the screen a short story. This short story contained one example of each prefix we were focused on for this activity (un, dis, non). As I read the story out loud Elizabeth was following along. When we came across a word with a prefix, she highlighted it with the annotation feature on zoom. I read the article twice, this is something I do all the time with my students due to their lack of comprehension skills. After I read the story twice, I asked Elizabeth to recall what words she saw that contained prefixes. For each word, I had a picture card to show her. I showed her the picture card and asked her what she thinks each word means. After we did this, I pulled up a chart on Zoom under share screen. This chart had 3 columns. One for the prefixes, one for the root word, and one for the meaning of the word. Elizabeth had to break down each word, she did this by writing it down on the chart, I was able to send it to her mom and she printed it out for Elizabeth. I also had her talk me through her thought process. For example, she said things such as “The base word is fair, which means……” or “The prefix in this word is un which means not”.
After we finished that activity, to close the lesson I had Elizabeth try to come up with words that used the prefixes un, dis, and non on her own. In addition, I assigned her a short homework assignment on Google Classroom. For the homework assignment she had to look up 5 words that I gave her which used the prefixes un, dis, or non and fill out a chart like the one she did for the activity. She then had to use each word in a sentence.
While doing this activity with Elizabeth, she seemed to pick up the concept quickly. She enjoyed the article and the activity that was paired with it. Elizabeth did run into some challenges when she was asked to come up with words on her own using the prefixes. She needed some prompting such has “when someone is not happy, what word can we use to say that?” or “What is the word we use when we do not agree with someone?”. My concern is that she has a hard time retaining information and if not practiced weekly she will never fully understand this topic. I have zoomed with her four times and each meeting was centered around this topic. I definitely have seen some improvement since day one and I feel it is due to the repetition of the concept and review of what we did in the previous meeting each time to refresh her memory. I do plan to continue doing various lesson involving morphological awareness to help Elizabeth improve her skills. A modification I would like to do is have this lesson/activity be more interactive and hands-on. For example, making a sorting game with prefixes and root words or doing a smartboard activity. With our current online teaching situation, there was not much room to implement the typical strategies I use in the classroom to engage her. With all of that beginning said I think Elizabeth did pretty well and did make some progress. I look forward to continuing this with her and hopefully seeing more growth in her morphological awareness.
I think doing this project was a great learning experience. I think a part that was a little challenging for me was having to pinpoint what specific aspect of linguistics I felt Elizabeth struggled with. I was able to do this through the help of my school’s ENL and Speech teacher as well as, reading the many resources that were provided to me. Another part that was a process for me was coming up with the actual activity. As I mentioned above when describing the student, I did this study on, she is not only an ENL student but is also learning disabled and has a Speech and Language Impairment. While creating the activity I had to target the ENL aspect in addition to making sure that the activity was appropriate for where she is academically which is a first-grade level. Something I learned in doing this project is that we as educators have to recognize the needs of our students. Not all of the same strategies or approaches will work for every student. For ENL students specifically it also depends on their proficiency level and not teaching them material on a level that we want them to be at or expect them to be at, but teaching them material on the level they are at and building up from there. In doing that is how we will ensure that our ENL students are being as successful as they can be in the classroom on a daily basis.
Common Content Area Roots and Affixes – ReadWriteThink. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.readwritethink.org/classroom-resources/printouts/common-content-area-roots-30842.html
Courter, M. K. (n.d.). 101 Therapy Strategies to Increase Your Effectiveness as a Speech- Language Pathologist. Bellevue, WA: Bureau of Education & Research.
Rooting Out Meaning: Morpheme Match-Ups in the Primary Grades – ReadWriteThink. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.readwritethink.org/classroom-resources/lesson-plans/rooting-meaning-morpheme-match-880.html
VocabularySpellingCity. (2012, September 14). Learn about Prefixes. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l170VTskxKA
Yule, G. (2020). The study of language (4th ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.