Lesson plan

Tools for Tackling Words

Sometimes looking inside a word can help determine the meaning just like using context clues! In this lesson, students will learn to use roots and affixes as clues to the meaning of a word.
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  • Students will be able to locate roots and affixes (prefixes and suffixes) in words.
  • Students will be able to use roots and affixes to determine the meaning of words.
(5 minutes)
  • Ask the students to share how they can determine the meaning of words.
  • Tell the students that sometimes we can look outside of a word, within a sentence, to find context clues that can be useful in understanding the meaning. Other times we can use what is inside a word to determine the meaning. When we do this, sometimes we need to take words apart and use the parts to understand the word.
  • Tell the students that they will be learning how to use the tool of taking apart words that have prefixes and suffixes to help determine the meaning.
(10 minutes)
  • Remind students that prefixes and suffixes are letters or groups of letters that are located at the beginning or ending of words. Prefixes and suffixes add meaning to the word.
  • Tell the students that you are going to show them how they can take apart words to find the prefixes, suffixes, and root words. Using the word parts, it will be easier to determine the meaning once the words are taken apart.
  • Using the teacher modeling index cards or sentence strips, cut apart the words so that the students can see the separated root words, along with corresponding prefixes and suffixes.
  • Model the process of using the root word, along with the affix to determine the meaning of each word. (For example, in the word, underpaid, the root word paid means that someone receives money for a good or service. The prefix under means less. These two word parts can be combined to make the word underpaid, which means that a person has been paid too little.)
(15 minutes)
  • Divide students into small groups and distribute two or three guided practice index cards to each group, along with several pieces of white paper, scissors, and markers.
  • Ask the students to cut apart the words in a way that divides the root words from the prefixes or suffixes.
  • Ask each group to use a piece of white paper for each word to create an illustration, diagram, or explanation of that word.
  • Circulate around the room and assist groups as needed.
  • Once all groups are finished, invite each group to share their words and word meanings with the rest of the class.
(15 minutes)
  • Ask students to complete the worksheet, Look Inside!
  • Circulate around the room and assist student as needed.


  • Challenge students to create an infographic, diagram, or other electronic illustration to represent the meaning of difficult words.


  • When students read additional text that contains words with prefixes and suffixes, use highlighter tape to cover the words ahead of time so that students can distinguish between prefixes, suffixes, and root words that can assist in determining the meaning of unknown words.
  • Using an interactive whiteboard, invite students to match words that have similar suffixes or prefixes.
(10 minutes)
  • Give students several words that include prefixes and suffixes (such as auditor, provider, nonsense).
  • On an exit card or in student journals, ask the students to locate the affixes and root word, and explain the meaning of each word.
  • Check to see that students are able to identify word parts and use the parts of the word to determine the meaning of the word.
(5 minutes)
  • Using several words with prefixes and suffixes, think aloud in finding the root and determining the meaning of the word.
  • Ask students to decide if the word was correctly divided and if the meaning is correct.
  • Invite students to share their thinking.

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