Using word parts to spell words

Strategy

Teachers should be alert to how words can be broken up into morphemes and model for students how they can use morphemic knowledge (or word-part clues) to work out how to read, understand and spell unfamiliar words.

Activities to support the strategy

Activity 1: prefixes and suffixes

When teaching a word with a common morpheme, brainstorm other words that use that morpheme. This may assist students to use morphemic knowledge when they are unsure of the meaning or spelling of an unfamiliar word.

Anchor chart for prefixes

Create an anchor chart with students. They can then work in pairs to locate and collect examples of words with prefixes in model texts. Students could continue to collect words to add to a word wall or class wiki.

Words could be categorised into groups of prefixes with the same meaning, for example:

What is a prefix?
  • A prefix is a group of letters that go in front of a word.
  • It changes the meaning of the word.
  • When you peel it off, a word must be left.

Prefixes meaning ‘not’: un-, dis-, in-, im-, ir-, non-
Prefixes meaning ‘again’ or back: re-

Suffixes

Initially present a list of words with suffixes that need no spelling change from the base word. Groups or pairs could be given different target vocabulary items to add to a chart. They can report their findings back to the class.

WordIs there a suffix? Write the suffix.Take off the suffix and write the base word
transported-edtransport

Activity 2

Spelling changes

Some words will require a change in spelling when suffixes are added. To find the base word students may need to take off a letter (consonant doubling), change a letter (i to y), or add a letter (silent e).

Adjectives
Base wordJust add suffix -ed, -er, ing, lyChange y to l and add suffixDouble the last letter and add suffix
thin(blank)(blank)thinned, thinner, thinning, thinnest
funny(blank)funnier(blank)
fastfaster, fasting, fasted(blank)(blank)
sweetsweetly, sweeten,(blank)(blank)
Verbs
Base words -Irregular past tenseJust add suffixChange y to l and add suffixDouble the last letter and add suffix
swimswam(blank)(blank)swimmer, swimming
talk(blank)talked, talks, talking, talkative(blank)(blank)
worry(blank)worryingworried(blank)

Students can collect words from any text to add to the spelling changes grid.

References

Australian curriculum

ACELA1485: Expressing and developing ideas: Understand how to use sound–letter relationships and knowledge of spelling rules, compound words, prefixes, suffixes, morphemes and less common letter combinations, for example ‘tion’.

NSW syllabus

EN2-5A: Outcome 5: uses a range of strategies, including knowledge of letter–sound correspondences and common letter patterns, to spell familiar and some unfamiliar words  (EN2-5A) - Understand and apply knowledge of language forms and features: understand how to use strategies for spelling words, including spelling rules, knowledge of morphemic word families, spelling generalisations, and letter combinations including double letters

NSW literacy continuum

WRIC10M7: Aspects of writing, Cluster 10, Marker 7: Uses morphemic, visual, phonic knowledge and knowledge of prefixes and suffixes to spell and edit words.

Teacher resources

Articles

Books

  • Bear, Invernizzi, Templeton & Johnston (2012) Words their Way: Word Study for Phonics, Vocabulary and Spelling Instruction. New Jersey: Pearson Tucker, E. R. () Spelling Essentials. RIC Publications

Student resources

Picture books

  • Abbof, Marcie - If You Were a Prefix
  • Abbof, Marcie - If You Were a Suffix
  • Blaisdell, Molly - If You Were an Apostrophe
  • Lyons, Shelly - If You Were Exclamation Mark
  • Dahl, Michael - If You Were an Adjective
  • Lyons, Shelly - If You Were Question Mark
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