When in Rome: Discovering the Meaning of Affixes

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SWBAT construct and define words made up of prefixes and base words.

Big Idea

First students learn about prefixes and the meaning of common prefixes, then use them to figure out the meaning of words made of up those prefixes.


10 minutes

Words are like puzzle made up of different pieces of meaning. Putting pieces together help us understand the full meaning of the word. It can actually be fun to put together and disassemble words and you kids will have fun as well.

This lesson introduces students to prefixes and how they can help us understand the meaning of new words.

For this lesson, I create four sets of words cards using the blank side of an index card, a sentence strip, or by printing them on cardstock (see resources). Each set is made up of words that start with one of the four most common prefixes: dis, re, mis, and un.

To introduce this lesson, I display a set of words in a pocket chart, one word at a time until all of the words are shown. Students are told to look for anything that the words have in common. Students might say things like, “they all start with a consonant” or “they are all nouns, except for one of them”. Whether or not they can say that the beginning letters are the same or name the commonality as the prefix, I still show the second set of cards so that there are two columns, each with a different prefix before I tell them to look at the beginning letters. To finish up, I display the last two sets, so that all for sets are displayed at once in four columns.

Students are now told that each column is made up of words that have the same beginning letters. These words have prefixes as the beginning of them. Although, prefixes are not words by themselves, they can help us understand what a word means.

Guided Practice

5 minutes

Once all of the words are displayed, I ask students to look at just the first set and make a guess at what meaning all of the words have in common. If I use the deck of cards that start with “dis” then I want to hear students say that they all are describing the opposite of the part of the word without the prefix. If they do guess right, I confirm their answer, but if they don’t, I try to guide them to the right answer.

Students get a chance to guess the meanings of prefixes for the rest of the lists, and I confirm or correct the meaning of the associated prefixes.

Group Game

15 minutes

Once students have had an introduction to the meaning of “dis”, “re”, “mis,” and “un”, they get to play with words and prefixes in a game called, “Prefix Match”. See resources for game and directions. The game is won by putting prefix and base words together to form words as well as by defining the new words that are created.

To teach the game, I model using the document camera to show how to set up the game, pull cards, and explain meaning. Another student helps me show the class how to play the game as well by demonstrating in front of the class. If they get stuck, the class can help them.

Independent Assessment

10 minutes

After student plays the “Prefix Match” game, they can take a quick assessment to show their understanding of how prefixes affect the meaning of words. The purpose of this quiz serves as a way for me to check in on their understanding of prefixes. It also allows me to determine what needs to be reviewed and what concepts have been mastered.

This worksheet asks students to identify the prefix and explain the meaning of words used in a sentence. I try to use words that are not common so students really have to pay attention to meaning.

This lesson is great at introducing students to the concept of prefixes and giving them hands on time to work with them. It is also engaging and fun.