Once students are competent at using letter-sound
relationships to decode words, they begin to recognize meaningful units
of words, such as graphemic bases (-an, -ain), affixes (-ed, re-), or
syllables (be•cause, to•geth•er). Structural elements
of words follow predictable patterns. Able readers deduce these patterns
without giving them much thought. They perceive common roots and affixes,
divide words rapidly, and decode accurately. On the other hand, struggling
readers are not adept at recognizing or utilizing structural cues, so
they need formal instruction. All students, even those who read with ease,
spell more accurately as cognizance of orthographic features advances.
Initially, students learn to recognize how
affixes and root words are used as structural elements of words. This
is the objective of our Prefix/Root/Suffix
manipulatives. In the vocabulary section and materials, students learn
to use the meaning of these word parts to expand vocabulary.
Step 1 - Teach students to identify prefixes/root words/suffixes
When introducing prefix/root word/suffix identification and usage to students,
it is preferable to use roots that are English words after affixes are
removed. Students grasp these concepts more readily when dealing with
affixes on known words. The third example below contains a Latin root
(voc, vok - to call), an example of root words to avoid in phonics exercises.
dis grace ful
pro vok ed
Step 2 - Teach or review common
Suffixes are added to the end of words to modify usage. These are common
• -s or -es to form plurals or third-person-singular
• -ed to form past tense verbs
• -ing to form present participle verbs
• -er to form comparative adjectives
or -est to form superlative adjectives.
In addition, suffixes are used to change words from one part of speech
to another (act -> actor, verb -> noun). As students are learning about
orthographic characteristics of words, it is suffix recognition that is
the goal. Complexities of usage can be learned once they read proficiently.
Step 3 - Teach how prefixes
are used to change word meaning
Prefixes are placed at the beginning of words to change meaning. "Pre"
in "prefix" is a prefix meaning "before" or "in front of." The study of
prefixes and their affect on meaning is a valuable strategy for expanding
word knowledge and is covered in the vocabulary section. As a word analysis
strategy, prefix recognition and general usage concepts are the objectives.
Students need to be able to recognize and remove prefixes when breaking
Affixes & Roots Tips
Prefixes & Suffixes Resource List
An increased awareness of phonetic and structural patterns in words develops spelling consciousness, thereby leading to improved encoding accuracy. Visual learners tend to be better spellers since they remember how words look. Therefore, visual learners are more apt to spell words with suffixes correctly. Patterns become imbedded in visual memory as a reader sees them repeatedly over a period of time. Auditory or kinesthetic learners are more dependent on rules and instruction. They can become good spellers, but it takes more effort.
Rules are worth teaching if the generalization applies to many words and there are few exceptions. At the top of the list of rules meeting these criteria are the suffix spelling change rules. Data supports that these are among the most consistent English spelling patterns.
These rules should be taught one at a time in the order listed. Download the suffix spelling changes rule charts and post each as the rule is introduced. Then provide students with ample drill applying the concepts. Drill cards (Suffix Spelling Changes) or assignments may be tedious, but they are effective. Like multiplication tables, these rules must be memorized, and it is application practice that leads to mastery.
- Words ending with s, x, z, ch, or sh, add –es
dress dresses box boxes buzz buzzes church churches wish wishes
- Words ending in y preceded by a consonant, change the y to i if suffix begins with e
baby babies try tries tried trying key keys play plays played playing
- Words ending with a silent e, drop the e if suffix begins with a vowel
nice nicer nicest nicely scare scares scared scaring scary
- Words ending in one vowel followed by one consonant, double the final consonant if suffix begins with a vowel chat chats chatted chatting chatter chatty
By teaching these rules to your students, you set expectations for spelling accuracy. Since young students are tuned in to phonetic elements of words, these rules can be taught as early as second grade. With older students, some phonics review may be needed.
One of the best ways to ensure that students remember and apply the rules is to add suffixes to spelling words. Do this on practice exercises and on spelling tests. When students get careless making spelling changes, repeating a card jogs their memories and gets them to be more careful.
Download Suffix Spelling Changes Rule Charts
Syllabication, or the breaking down of words
into each uninterrupted unit of spoken language, is often taught in such
a fragmented manner in materials that students are unable to pull all
components together into a viable word analysis strategy. Research indicates
that readers generally use sounds to determine syllable division. If this
is the case, students must already know what the strategies are intended
Students who need to use syllabication to
decode words must be taught syllabication rules holistically. When they
apply basic rules in steps, they begin to recognize patterns and break
down unknown words. Initially, the rules are applied to two-syllable rules.
Once students learn the patterns, the same rules are used to break down
longer words. Even those students who read words with ease in context
generally improve spelling accuracy if they become more cognizant of word
structure and syllabication patterns.
1 - Assure that students have prerequisite phonics skills
Students should possess certain prerequisite skills and concepts before
being taught the syllabication rules. Frequently, it is necessary to review
short and long vowels, as well as prefixes/root words/suffixes, before
proceeding with syllabication. You will see why as you review the following
Step 2 - Teach syllabication rules and apply in order
Reading Manipulatives Syllable
Sorts manipulatives have students sort two-syllable words according to
these division rules:
Learn how to teach syllabication holistically
so students will actually apply the rules for decoding. A resource list
with 67 examples for each of the 4 syllabication categories is included.
Syllabication Rules Tips
Syllabication Resource List