INTRODUCTIONMANY LARGE words that are used every day are made up of small, pieces of words called roots or combining forms. The roots come from other languages like Greek and Latin and, when combined, form common English words. For instance, using the four roots:
Another difficult sounding dinosaur name is Pachycephalosaurus. Broken down into its combining forms it means:
Return to top
Dinosaur names can also describe where the animal was first discovered:
ACTIVITY: THE NAME GAMEThe combining forms which produce dinosaur names come from the languages of Greek and Latin. Not coincidentally many of those same forms are found in everyday words in English: corrugated cardboard (L, corrugat-), dinner plate (G, platy-). In the following activity, students will appreciate how descriptive dinosaur names are formed. In this activity students will use multiple combining forms added to the suffix "-saurus" (Greek for lizard) to form the name of a "dinosaur" which they will then draw.
Time: approximately 60 minutes
MATERIALS six containers (plastic bucket or envelope; something opaque)
six small cards of six different colors; total 36 (business-card size or similar)
drawing paper for each student
colored pencils, crayons or markers for each student
Grouping: Divide the class into six groups
DIRECTIONS1) Before class write each of the 36 combining forms from Table 1 on a separate card, listing the combining forms and the meaning. Put each group into a separate container, centrally located in the room so it is readily accessible to all students. Having six colors will avoid cards being mixed up. Cards could be laminated to avoid repetition of this time-consuming step.
2) Divide the class into six groups and arrange the six groups so they form a circle around the six centrally located containers.
3) Explain that each bucket contains a word that may be used to describe an animal. Ask one
member of each group to select one card from each container as a sample and read them to
the students. For example, one combination might be, "albi-, grandi-, plani-, lasio-, duo-,
ungui-." These would be combined with the word -saurus, to form:
"albigrandiplanilasioduounguisaurus," or, in English, a "white, large, flat, hairy, two-clawed
lizard". Students should be encouraged to rearrange the six descriptors any way they would
4) After selecting the dinosaur descriptors, a member of the group should read the six selected cards aloud to the class.
5) Distribute drawing materials to each student.
6) Each member of the group should then draw a picture of the animal described by the six combining forms and write the combining forms across the bottom of the drawing.
7.At the end of the allotted time have each group present all of their drawings to the class.
EXTENSIONS1) The drawing can be combined with a writing activity where students must write a paragraph describing their animal instead of, or in addition to, step 7.
2) Two students can be asked to write a longer story explaining what would happen if their two dinosaurs met one another.
3) Students can be encouraged (extra credit, competition among student groups, peanuts) to look through the dictionary for words that may contain the combining forms they selected for their dinosaur.
4) Table 2 is a list of combining forms taken only from dinosaur names. As dinosaurs are studied in class, students could use this as a reference checklist to see what the names mean. It could be enlarged as new roots are found and kept as a reference wall chart. As new discoveries are announced in the media, they can also be added making it state-of-the-art.
Return to top
REFERENCESBorror, Donald J., 1960, Dictionary of Word Roots and Combining Forms. Palo Alto, California: Mayfield, 1960.
Munsart, Craig A., Investigating Science With Dinosaurs. Englewood, Colorado: Teacher Ideas Press, 1994.
Norman, David. The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Dinosaurs. New York: Crown, 1985.
Return to top