The Most Efficient Lesson Routine for Teaching Prefixes and Suffixes

A few years ago I gave an assessment and was surprised at one of the questions about prefixes and suffixes. It asked the students what a word meant when the suffix -ly was added to the end. This was a word most kids know but add the suffix and all sorts of confusion occurred.

Prefixes and Suffixes Exercises

Prefixes and suffixes are an important part of teaching kids how to decode multisyllabic words. So I decided that I needed to change the way I taught them. I created flash cards with the most important prefixes and suffixes my students would need to know. On one side I wrote the prefix or suffix and on the other side I wrote the definition, an example and a sentence.

I choose 3 prefixes or suffixes a week to teach and follow the same routine for each one. Since I teach 3rd grade, I chose the prefixes for the polygons they need to know: tri-, quad-, pent-, hex-, oct- and dec-. This is super helpful when we do our geometry lessons!

Example Routine for Teaching Prefixes and Suffixes

Here’s how the routine would go using one of the prefix examples “pre-“. I point to the prefix flash card and say read. The kids respond by saying “pre”. I then say “Pre- means before. What does it mean?” The kids should say “before”.

Next, I read the sentence with the word preview and ask the kids what it means in this sentence. Understanding what the prefix or suffix in a sentence means helps with context. After they offer answers, I say “read” and students repeat. I say “What does it mean?” and they respond with “before”.

I repeat this same routine for all the prefixes and suffixes I teach. If you use whole brain teaching like I do in my class, you can create a hand gesture for each prefix or suffix. I like having the class come up with the gesture so that they own it and remember it more easily. Each time they say the prefix or suffix they do the hand gesture with it.

It’s amazing how easy it is for my students to remember the meanings of prefixes and suffixes now. Give this routine a try and let me know how you like it!