How to teach prefixes, suffixes and affixes

Written by stephen byron cooper Google
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How to teach prefixes, suffixes and affixes
If you write your examples in coloured markers, you can colour-code prefixes and suffixes. (Jupiterimages/ Images)

Prefixes and suffixes are types of affixes. Being able to detect them is an important tool in developing command of the English language, both for children and for speakers of other languages. In order to teach prefixes, suffixes and affixes, you also need to add in the definition of “root.” The prefix attaches to the front of the root and the suffix goes at the end of the root. Thus, in "preformed," "pre" is a prefix and "ed" is a suffix, both based on the root "form." You should first explain how words are made up of roots and affixes and then explain the difference between prefixes and suffixes.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

Things you need

  • Marker pen
  • A4 sheets of paper

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  1. 1

    Choose a set of words that clearly demonstrate the presences of root and affixes. Create groups that have the same root and difference affixes. Research the source of these roots -- whether they come from Greek, Latin or Saxon, for example. Write out the root in large letters to fill an A4 page for each group, then write out affixes in the same way.

  2. 2

    Place the root on a table -- take “FORM,” for example -- then place the affixes either side of the word in two columns. Don’t sort the affixes in any way. Ask the students to create real words by sticking one of the affixes on the front and one on the back of the root.

  3. 3

    Place each affix that the students put in front of the root over to the left of root and all those that they place after the word over to the right. Tell the students they have to use up all the sheets of affixes and each time they apply one, take it away and put it in the correct pile.

  4. 4

    Point out to the students that they have sorted the affixes into two piles. The group to the left only ever appear on the front of a root and the group on the right only appear at the end of the word. Now you can explain that the group of affixes to the left are called prefixes and the group to the right are called suffixes.

  5. 5

    Take one prefix from the left pile and one suffix from the right pile. Put them on the table in a line with a blank piece of paper between them. Ask the students whether they can think of any words that start and end with these affixes. Write a list of these words as they arise on the blank sheet of paper. Randomly change either the prefix or the suffix when the students run out of ideas. Start the process again. This will show the students that the same root can have different meanings when modified by different affixes. The same affixes can appear in many different words.

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