Using word parts to spell words


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-


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.

Word Is there a suffix? Write the suffix. Take off the suffix and write the base word
transported -ed transport

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).

Base word Just add suffix -ed, -er, ing, ly Change y to l and add suffix Double the last letter and add suffix
thin (blank) (blank) thinned, thinner, thinning, thinnest
funny (blank) funnier (blank)
fast faster, fasting, fasted (blank) (blank)
sweet sweetly, sweeten, (blank) (blank)
Base words - Irregular past tense Just add suffix Change y to l and add suffix Double the last letter and add suffix
swim swam (blank) (blank) swimmer, swimming
talk (blank) talked, talks, talking, talkative (blank) (blank)
worry (blank) worrying worried (blank)

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


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’.

Teacher resources

  • 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
  • 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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