This month in the Reading Room, we will be focusing on Morphology, a very important part of structured literacy. Simply put, morphology is the teaching of word parts for both decoding purposes and meaning. A morpheme is the smallest unit of meaning. Some words have only one morpheme (e.g., jump, maple, tiger) while many others are made up of two or more morphemes.
For instance, the word cats contains two morphemes:
1. “cat” tells us about the animal
2. the suffix “–s” tells us about how many of that animal
Therefore, adding prefixes and suffixes—both of which are examples of morphemes—can alter a word’s meaning. Together, prefixes and suffixes are known as affixes.
Morphology instruction improves decoding, helps with vocabulary development, and boosts comprehension. Leaving out morphology when teaching Structured Literacy can be detrimental to the progress of the student. Even though children come to school having already acquired production of some common affixed and inflected word forms, students can benefit from understanding how their language works. Those who struggle with linguistic awareness are especially in need of explicit, systematic, and direct instruction with many practice opportunities.
When teaching morphology, it is important to remember to explain the meaning of the morpheme and share information about its origin. Have the students look at a list of several words that use the target morphemes and pronounce them orally. Have them underline or highlight the target morpheme in a list of printed words. Read sentences that use the target words, make an educated guess about the word’s meaning, and then read or hear a formal or student friendly definition. Practice saying and writing the target words using various formats every chance you get.
The following are activities that could be used with your students.
Skill: Segmenting Base Words and Suffixes
Format: Whole Class Instruction
Objective: The students will separate inflections and simple suffixes from base words.
Target Words: sail, play, might
Required Resources: none
Activity: Say this word after me. “sailing”. Now let’s separate the suffix from the base word. sailing = sail + ing
- playful = play + ful
- mighty = might + y
- mightier = might + i(y) + er
Activity: Listen for root words and suffixes. Explain if the ending is inflectional or derivational.
- boys: (I) ending changes the number of boys
- gladness: (D) ending changes an adjective to a noun
- pointless: (D) ending changes noun to adjective
- excitement: (D) ending changes verb to noun
- babies: (I) ending changes number of babies
Skill: Demonstrating Morphological Awareness
Format: Whole Class Instruction
Objective: The students will generate a base word or an inflected / derived word in a sentence.
Required Resources: paper, pencil, activity sheet
Activity: Complete a cloze activity in which the student is asked to generate a suitable inflected or derived word when given a root or base word. Responses can be given orally or in writing.
- Spect: A person who watches a spectacle is a _____________. (spectator)
Activity: Complete a cloze activity in which the student is given a derived form of a word and is asked to generate the base or root form in a sentence. Responses can be given orally or in writing.
- Manuscript: Our drama coach will read the ______________ that we wrote. (script)
Using Morpheme Matrices
Free PowerPoint with morphological activities: Sequential or Standalone Lessons for Assembling Common Prefixes, Latin Roots, Greek Forms, and Suffixes
The following are resources that could be used with your students.
Activities to Develop Morphological Awareness
Teaching Morphology to Improve Literacy
How to Make Morphology Instruction Multisensory
For questions, please contact:
Chris Fox – firstname.lastname@example.org, Jessica Powell – email@example.com