The roots of Medical English Lesson Plan

The Roots of Medical English

Aims: Making Medical English more memorable and understandable by analyzing its roots in other languages

Skills: Scanning and skimming reading skills, understanding how a text links together, describing things you don’t know the word for (extension), pronunciation,

Resources: (PG= per group, PS= per student)

PS: 1 x Worksheet 1

(Optional) PG: 1 page from Worksheet 2

PG: 1 x Worksheet 3, cut up into sections

PS: 1x Worksheet 3

(Optional) PS: 1 x Worksheet 4

Time: Approx 50 minutes (not including extension activities)


Stage 1

Warmer- “You don’t know what you are saying!”

 5 to 10 minutes

1.       Have the students talk about their work, studies or weekend- either as a class or in pairs. Listen for words they say that originally came from other languages. If none come up naturally, try to guide the conversation towards foods from different countries they have eaten or medical words.

2.       Write some of these words up on the board and discuss where the words come from and how their meaning and pronunciation changes depending on the language you are speaking in, contrasting the original language the word comes from with the students’ L1(s) and English.

Stage 2

Vocabulary- “Where did that come from?”

 10 minutes

1.      Put the students into pairs. Give out Worksheet 1 and ask them to work together to guess the original languages the words come from. In each section, the easiest words to guess come last. To make it more challenging, you can fold over the last section of the worksheet so students have to guess which language without hints.

2.      Go through the answers as a class, correcting pronunciation of language names etc.

3.      Ask the pairs to match the vocabulary areas to the sections. Check as a class.

4.      Answer any questions on what the words mean, especially the medical ones. This should lead on naturally to the topic of how these words came into English, how the meaning and pronunciation has changed, the history of the English language etc. From there, you can lead into either the optional extension below or Stage 4.

Stage 3- Optional Extension of Stage 2

Vocabulary and Speaking- “Where did that come from?” Two

 10 to 20 minutes

1.        Give out different pages from Worksheet 2 to the various pairs, one page per pair. Give them 5 minutes to work out as many as they can.

2.        Ask each group to choose one word to describe to the class for the class to guess, using their own words rather reading off the worksheet.

3.        As an extension, you can then change the pairs and have the students describe any other words from the worksheets for their partners to guess.

4.        Continue discussion of some of the most interesting word derivations as a class, leading onto the next stage.

Stage 4

Reading- The History of Medical English

 25 minutes

1.      Give out the cut up copies of the History of Medical English text (Worksheet 3). Tell students they must quickly sort the text into order, ignoring the gaps. As a class, discuss which paragraphs come first and last, then let the pairs continue.

2.      Give out the complete Worksheet 3 copies of the text for students to check.

3.      Give out the questions for Worksheet 3, and ask students to try to match the words to the spaces in the text. Note that some of the answers are on Worksheet 1.

4.      Discuss the answers as a class, giving clues such as spelling (ph usually means a Greek word etc.). Note that there are deliberately no numbers in the text as this should make the students say the medical words as you check the answers, so that you can correct their pronunciation.

5.      Answer questions on meanings of the words. This should lead naturally onto the extension below.

Stage 5- Optional Extension

Word formation- Greek roots

 20 minutes

1.      If you have time, either in class or for homework, go through Worksheet 4. At each stage, try to get students to guess the words and meanings before looking at the clues on the second part of each worksheet. An alternative extension would be to continue with more examples from Worksheet 2.

PDF  version of the lesson plan for easy saving and printing: Roots of Medical English Lesson plan


Worksheet 1 – The roots of English identify the country

Worksheet 2 – The roots of English identify the word

Worksheet 3 – The history of medical English

Worksheet 4 – The original meanings of medical vocabulary

More medical word roots (material for teachers)

2 Responses to The roots of Medical English Lesson Plan

  1. Jacqueline Buchanan says:

    Wow this is great for me but it would be really difficult for my students

  2. alexcase says:

    I’ve only used it once, but I found that the sheer number of clues meant my students could guess most of them with not too much help. It would be more difficult in a larger class, though, and definitely needs editing down.

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