Minnesota Reading Changes

Becky Z. Dernbach

“Looking at a small part of a word helps us figure out the meaning,” Selcer reminded her class. She then mapped out a series of morphemes on the board: un, in, habit, able, at, ing.

“‘Habit’ means to live,” she said, adding that it came from a Latin root. And when “at” comes at the end of the word, it means place, she told them. She showed them how to combine the word parts into habitat. The students penciled the meanings in their packets.

“What’s a habitat?” Selcer asked them.

“Place to live,” the children chorused.

“A what?” Selcer asked, putting her hand to her ear.

“Place to live!” her students shouted.

She then showed the students how to construct another word with similar roots: inhabit—to live in.

“I inhabit this classroom,” she said, gesturing around the room.

“This is your habitat?” one student asked.

Piecing together Latin roots and using linguistics terminology may seem like high-level concepts for eight-year-old multilingual learners, but the kids approached them with enthusiasm. These methods may become more common in Minnesota classrooms as the state’s new reading law takes effect. And at Prodeo Academy, they seemed to be working.