Identifying patterns and syllables in words, morphemic knowledge


Exploring morphemic knowledge (the minimum meaningful elements in a language, not further divisible into smaller meaningful elements) and how morphemes take different spellings when they change form eg ‘full’ to ‘ful’ as a suffix.

Learning to spell many new words correctly by playing with prefixes (word segments added to the beginning of a word, e.g. un, mis, pre, de, re) and suffixes (word segments added to the end of a word, e.g. ment, tion, ly, able, ful, less).

Activities to support the strategy

Word lists can be generated from the vocabulary within the topic students are studying and students’ personal needs.

Access the Teaching Spelling K-6 State Literacy Strategy pdf (PDF 1.58MB) for examples of words which could be used.

Activity 1: neologisms for fun (Grades 3-9)

(Neologism – a new word, meaning, usage, or phrase.) This activity gives students permission to be active and creative in exploring words by using already learned roots and affixes. Playing ‘Neologisms For Fun’; students’ simply take already learned roots and affixes and combine or attach them to existing words to create new words. Student-invented words are put on display, and the inventor is asked to explain the meaning of his or her creation. When students are actively engaged in making meaning in this way, they are much more likely to grasp and hold the essential meanings of the roots than when they learn in the more traditional manner of passive memorisation.

Activity 2: explore the most famous neologist

William Shakespeare. He wrote 17,000 words of which 1,700 were not written until his writings. (That's 1:10!)

(Years 3 – 9)

Activity 3: root word of the day

The root is placed on the board at the beginning of the day / session (e.g., aud– to hear) students can add words to the list (e.g. audio, audacity, audience, audition, audible). Click here for resources for students. Use the online graphical dictionary and thesaurus for a fun way of extending vocabulary developed from this activity.

Activity 4: PQRST

PQRST is a word–part strategy that involves identifying the meaning of the root, prefix, and suffix and then putting the meanings together to get the whole word's meaning.

  • P = Prefix; find the prefix and identify its meaning
  • QR = Queen Root; find the root (which is queen of the word) and identify its meaning
  • S = Suffix; find the suffix and identify its meaning
  • T = Total; put the meanings of the units together to gain the total word’s meaning.

As quoted in “Word Detectives: Using Units of Meaning to Support Literacy” April 2012 Amanda Goodwin, Miriam Lipsky & Soyeon Ahn

Further information about prefixes at

Activity 5: use garbage in, garbage out: errors caused by over-reliance on spelling checkers

Using either IWB or individual computers students type in errors and see which errors are still problematic. Spell checkers have improved since this site went up however some of these errors continue. Students decide which ones are/aren’t helpful.


RightWrongSpell checker
a lotalotallot
infinitely infinitlyinfinity

spencer, sponger, spanker (no sensible results)


Activity 6: 100 most often misspelled words in English

Have students select their own “tricky” list from the 100 words. Present the explanation to the class as a presentation piece to teach us ‘humorously!’

Additional online resource

The following website will be useful to develop further activities:

Fabulous competitive spelling game for older children


Australian curriculum reference

ACELA1779: Understand how to use strategies for spelling words, including spelling rules, knowledge of morphemic word families, spelling generalisations, and other letter combinations including double letters

NSW syllabus reference

EN3-4A: Draws on appropriate strategies to accurately spell familiar and unfamiliar words when composing texts.

NSW literacy continuum reference

VOCC11M3: Vocabulary knowledge, Cluster 11, Marker 3: Applies knowledge of prefixes and suffixes to understand the meanings of new words and to create new words.

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