Teaching Prefixes, Suffixes, and Root Words

Teaching Prefixes, Suffixes, and Root Words

Teaching Tip #1 Memorization

Memorizing lists is not the most effective way to teach prefixes, suffixes, and root words. Sure, many students can learn definitions and pass a quiz. This helps little with application. Definitions are soon forgotten.

Teaching Tip # Association

Students will remember prefixes, suffixes and root words if they can associate them with words they already know. For instance, most students know that equal means same size, quantity, or value. Knowing this will help students remember the Latin Root equ/equi. It means same, equal, similar, and even. With this association, students can break down additional words to figure out their meanings.

Here’s a list of examples:


equal sides on math problems – When the values of 2 mathematical expressions are equal


equal halves of Earth – n imaginary line drawn around the earth equally distant from both poles – It divides the earth into northern and southern hemispheres (2 equal parts). Its latitude is 0°.


equal angles


equal lengths – having all its sides of the same length


equal calendar year – This is the time or date (twice each year) at which the sun crosses the celestial equator. The equinox is when day and night are of equal length (about September 22 and March 20).


equal in value, amount, function, meaning


equally stable – a person who is tranquil, steady, or uniform


equally balanced – when 2 opposing forces are balanced


equal justice – equality for everybody

Teaching Tip # Use it or Lose It

Once students are acquainted with a new prefix, suffix, or root word, encourage them use it in their speech and writing. This may be as simple as awarding points to essays when students use words containing recently practiced prefixes, suffixes, or roots.

Free Printable Graphic Organizer #1 

This free organizer is designed to be flexible. You could start by having students practice with the organizer containing preset words. Once students have an understanding of the way the organizer works, give them the blank organizer. With this organizer, students can practice with any prefix or suffix. This is a great way to supplement your existing prefix and suffix lessons. Click on the links below to download the organizers and answer key.

Free Printable Foldable Organizer

Free Printable Graphic Organizer #2

Students have trouble remembering how words change when suffixes are added. This staggered flip organizer reviews six spelling rules. The rules include the following:

  • doubling the final consonant
  • dropping the final e
  • when to keep the final e – first rule
  • when to keep the final e – second rule
  • changing y to i
  • when not to change y to i

Click on the link to download this free staggered flip organizer.  

Additional Teaching Resources

If you are looking for more activities to help with your prefix and suffix unit, you may wish to take a look at this resource on Teachers Pay Teachers. Prefixes and Suffixes contains graphic organizers, mini posters, and fun hands-on activities to help students better understand affixes.

Prefixes and Suffixes Activities

Gay Miller


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