Lesson plan

Practice Using Prefixes to Determine Word Meaning

Students will learn how knowledge of word parts can help readers determine the meaning of words. This interactive lesson will have students reviewing and putting into practice some of the most common prefixes.
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Students will learn the meaning of some of the most common prefixes.

Students will practice using prefixes to determine word meaning.

(10 minutes)
  • Organize students in small groups.
  • Ask each group to brainstorm as many prefixes as they can in 60 seconds.
  • After one minute, have groups count their prefixes. The group that has the most should share their list with the class (use LCD projector or read aloud).
  • Discuss: Are there prefixes that this group missed? Are there any that didn’t seem legitimate? Which one/ones do they think are the most common? Can they provide examples of words made with some of the prefixes?
  • Remind students that prefixes are small word parts that can be “snapped” on to different root words (like LEGOs) to change the meaning. Suffixes do this, too, but today’s focus will be on common prefixes.
(20 minutes)
  • With students working in their small groups, assign each group one of the following prefixes: re-, pre-, anti-, co-, un-, dis-.
  • Distribute a piece of chart paper to each group and have them write their prefix in large font on the paper.
  • Using their dictionaries, have each group look up the meaning of the prefix and write it near the prefix.
  • Tell students that you are going to give them 10 minutes to work as a group to list as many words as they can that use that prefix.
  • Before they start, explain to students that not all words that use those letters are actually using them as a prefix. For example, “mis” means “wrongly” as in misunderstood. But, in the word missile “mis” is not a prefix. Sometimes it’s hard to tell but looking at the entry in the dictionary will help.
  • NOTE: Responses don’t need to be 100% correct. This is an exploratory activity and mistakes are good teachable moments. The goal is to have students engaged.
  • After 10 minutes, have students stop writing words on their chart paper.
(15 minutes)
  • Continue the activity above by rotating chart papers clockwise around the room so that each group now has a new prefix. Give the group two minutes to see if they can add any words to the list.
  • After two minutes, have students rotate the papers again and add words to the new list.
  • Repeat this until all groups have worked with each prefix chart.
  • Return each chart paper back to its original group.
  • Discuss: What words have been added? What was challenging about this activity? How did your group use your resources (Dictionaries? Other resources?).
(20 minutes)
  • Distribute the worksheet Practicing Using Prefixes to Determine Meaning: Pre, Re, Anti, Co, Un, Dis.
  • Review the example together and then assign students to work independently to finish the activity.


  • Have students work in partners or groups.


  • Have students who finish early learn more prefixes using the worksheet Determining the Meaning of Words with Prefixes: De, Circum, Trans, Sub, Tri, In
  • Students can use the internet to search for words that start with certain prefixes, and to look up prefix and word definitions.
(5 minutes)
  • Using a random selection method, call on students to make an educated guess about the meaning of given words that use the six prefixes learned in the lesson. Use words from the posters or generate a list of your own.
(10 minutes)
  • Write word on the board: autobiography.
  • Discuss: How can readers use what we know about how words are structured to determine the meaning of unknown words?
  • Write auto+bio+graph.
  • How might this help a reader understand what this word means?

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