Prefixes and suffixes are syllable stems, which when added to the beginning (prefix) or to the end (suffix) of the ‘root’ part of a word shape the meaning of the word in its entirety. Though this pattern/process you are to look for smaller words inside the word (root meaning) and identify common suffixes and prefixes to provide clues to what a word means.


General strategies

Students need to be shown that whilst at times it may not seem like it, our words are created for a reason and follow some general spelling rules. Building students’ vocabulary knowledge of prefixes and suffixes is essential in utilising these parts in spelling strategies.
One way to do this is in using subject specific vocabulary, to identify words with similar prefixes and/or suffixes.

Further to this, you can provide activities on subject vocabulary to see if students can work out what the meaning is, for example, that ‘pre’ is to represent before. Allow students an opportunity to explore this with unfamiliar words that are needed for the subject. For example, in science a focus on ‘logy’ to mean “study of”, students can then discover other words that have ‘logy’.

Activities to support the strategy

Activity 1

  • Provide students with lists of prefixes, roots and suffixes below. Discuss with the class the meaning of each word to ensure that the class has a working understanding of each term.
  • Provide the class with a knowledge challenge: using the table below write as many words as possible that have at least one prefix, root or suffix in it. Provide the class with creativity challenge: using the table below, create a list of 10 words, which use at least two prefixes, root words or suffixes. Change the rules of this activity to suit your student’s capabilities.
Prefix Root Suffix
ab- act -able
anti- cap -ance
bi- cred -ant
con- curr -cous
de- dict -ful
dis- equ -ion
ex- fac -ism
in- graph -ist
mal- par -less
mono- posit -logy
non- scrib -ment
omni- sequ -ness
per- spec -ory
poly- tact -ship
post- tend -some
pre- vent -tude
sub- (blank) (blank)
super- (blank) (blank)
trans- (blank) (blank)
uni- (blank) (blank)
un- (blank) (blank)

Activity 2: extensions

Discussion questions: Who decides if a word exists? What is required to make a word accepted?


Australian curriculum

ACELA1539: Expressing and developing ideas: Understand how to use spelling rules and word origins, for example Greek and Latin roots, base words, suffixes, prefixes, spelling patterns and generalisations to learn new words and how to spell them.

NSW syllabus

EN4-3B: Outcome 3: uses and describes language forms, features and structures of texts appropriate to a range of purposes, audiences and contexts (EN4-3B) - Understand and apply knowledge of language forms and features: interpret and analyse language choices, including sentence patterns, dialogue, imagery and other language features, in short stories, literary essays and plays.

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