Prefixes and suffixes are meaningful groups of letters added to the beginning or ending of a word base to form a new word. For example, dis- can be added to the beginning of agree to make the word disagree. The suffix, -able, can be added to the end of agree, to form the word agreeable. Learning about prefixes and suffixes helps students read and understand many multisyllabic words.
One way to easily teach the concept is to: 1) introduce commonly used prefixes and suffixes, 2) build words that use them, and, 3) provide opportunities to practice using the new words.
Start by writing base words in a column. Write common prefixes and suffixes in two more columns. Ask students to find prefixes or suffixes to add to the base words. Compare the meaning of the base words and the newly formed words by using them in sentences. Discuss how words change with the addition of a prefix or suffix.
Here is a list of some common prefixes and suffixes:
Prefix | Meaning of Prefix | Example
anti- | against | antibody
bi- | two | bifocals
de- | opposite | deconstruct
dis- | not | disable
en- | cause to | entrust
im- | not | impolite
inter- | between | interplay
mis- | wrongly | misread
non- | not | nonpayment
over- | over | overturn
pre- | before | prepay
re- | again | review
semi- | half | semicircle
super- | above, beyond | superman
un- | not | unable
under- | beneath | undertow
Suffix | Meaning of Suffix | Example
-able | to be able to | doable
-ed | past-tense verbs | jumped
-er | doer | writer
-est | comparative | oldest
-ful | full of | helpful
-ing | verb ending/present participle | singing
-less | without | nameless
-ly or –y | like | boldly
-ment | state of/quality | ailment
-ness | state of being | carelessness
-ous | full of | poisonous
-s, -es | more than one | students
Some children need extra practice to learn about using prefixes and suffixes, and to understand what they mean. Ask students to write a sentence using a base word. Next, ask them to choose a prefix or suffix from a list to form a new word. Students will demonstrate their understanding of the new word by writing a sentences with the word in it.
If children continue having difficulty reading multisyllabic words with prefixes and suffixes, draw a line between each syllable in the word. Ask the student to slowly read the word syllable by syllable, then blend it. Have them identify the prefix or suffix and base word after reading the word.
These teacher resource workbooks can be purchased for further individual practice:
The Learning Works: Prefixes and Suffixes, Grades 4-8: Teaching Vocabulary to Improve Reading Comprehension is available in paperback at Amazon.com.
Vocabulary Packets: Prefixes & Suffixes: Ready-to-Go Learning Packets That Teach 50 Key Prefixes and Suffixes and Help Students Unlock the Meaning of Dozens and Dozens of Must-Know Vocabulary Words is available in paperback at Amazon.com.