Prefix Games for Children

Written by julius vandersteen
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Prefix Games for Children
Children can play prefix games to build their vocabulary. (Jupiterimages/ Images)

As children start studying language arts, they will find that they can easily increase their vocabulary when they understand how prefixes work. One method to help them learn about this aspect of language is to play prefix games. Playing games engages children in what they are learning, and may be useful as an adjunct to traditional drills and practicing. A child may be surprised to learn that besides knowing the word "surprised," she also knows a second word, "unsurprised" because of the prefix "un."

Prefix Card Competition

An instructor makes lists of prefixes on index cards, such as "dis" (as in discover) and "un" as in "unfamiliar," and explains to the children that prefixes are an important component in their vocabulary. The children turn over each index card and write down as many words as possible, from memory. Whoever writes the most words wins a prize, such as a paperback dictionary.


In Spin-A-Word, children place markers on a board game that has steps printed on it leading from the start to the finish. A child spins the spinner and advances her marker the number indicated. She then reads the word printed in that step, such as "appear," and sees if she can make another word out of it by using one of the prefixes or suffixes printed on the spinner above each number. If she can make a word, she stays on her space. If she can't make a word, she goes back one space. Whoever makes it to the finish wins the game.

Prefix-Suffix Concentration

Prefix-Suffix Concentration is a card game that uses 52 cards, like a traditional deck. Half the cards have prefixes or suffixes printed on them, and the other half have their meanings. The children spread the cards around, face down on a table. A child flips over two cards, and if she matches prefix to meaning correctly, she removes both cards and puts them in her pile of won cards, and then flips over two more. A player who flips over two cards that do not match turns them back over, and the next player takes a turn. Whoever gets the most cards, wins.

Prefix Change

Prefix Change helps new readers become familiar with using prefixes. The children sit facing each other, and one child deals five cards to each player. Each card has a list of words beginning with the same prefix, such as "impress," "imagine" and "important." The rest of the cards go face down in the centre. The dealer turns the top card over and reads its prefix, followed by one of the words, as in "con like in confuse." If a child has a card with that prefix, he puts it in the stack. Otherwise, he takes a new card and adds it to his hand. The child who runs out of cards first is the winner.

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