Your students will become master word builders with these vocabulary-expanding prefix and suffix activities.

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Wall-of-Words Construction Site

Students will love putting on their hard hats and literally building words at this interactive learning center. To prepare, write out a variety of prefixes and suffixes on square-shaped blocks, and base or root words on rectangular blocks. Use masking-tape labels if needed. Try to include words that will not require spelling changes when suffixes are added (such as stand, feel, enjoy, appear, and so on). Students can start building by arranging a few blocks in a row to form the wall's “base”— the trick is that the sides of the “bricks” must form a word! (For instance, un-enjoy-able or dis-appear-ance.) Ask students to continue to add layers to the wall, using rows of two bricks (feel-ing), three bricks (under-stand-able), or even four bricks (mis-under-stand-ing; un-feel-ing-ly). Have students build a new wall each day, or challenge them to keep adding to the wall of words until it topples!

World-Builder Flip Books

Invite students to create new words with these special flip books. For each book, stack six strips of paper horizontally, staple across the top, and cut into three sections as shown. On the board, write prefixes (dis-, re-, un-, mis-), base or root words (agree, use, happy, help, read), and suffixes (-able, -ful, -less, -ly). Then ask students to choose six base words to write in the center section of their books (one on each page), five prefixes for the left-hand pages, and five suffixes for the right-hand pages. (Leave one page blank on each side.) Next, show students how to flip the pages back and forth to create two-part words (disagree, helpful) and three-part words (disagreeable, unhelpful). Point out that some new words may require spelling changes (for instance, in unhappily, the y in happy changes to i). Have students add their favorite new words to a personal word bank or class word wall (see “Wall of Words,” above).

Antonym Antics

Explain to students that some prefixes (such as dis-, mis-, im-, in-, and un-) have “magical” powers— they can change a word into its opposite! Next, divide the class into teams and provide each with several sentence strips. Have each team collaborate to write a simple sentence that includes at least one underlined adjective or verb on each strip. For example: I am very happy today; I agree with you; I tied my shoes. Work with students to make sure their adjectives and verbs can take antonym prefixes. Next, have teams exchange their strips. It's the other team's job to add the correct prefix to the underlined word, changing the sentence meaning to its opposite. Teams can exchange strips again to check one another's work.

Find a Partner, Form a Word

Here's a quick and easy way for students to practice word-building during transition times— try it whenever you need them to find partners for a classroom activity. To prepare, label sticky notes with prefixes, suffixes, and base or root words. Make sure each sticky note will have at least one word-forming match, such as under/stand, im/polite, use/ful, end/less, and so on. Place all the notes in a paper bag and let each student pick one and attach it to his or her shirt. Then have students mingle around the room and try to find another student with whom they can form a new word. When they find their “match,” student pairs can say the new word together.

Base-Word Bingo

Students can play this game in small groups, or you can stage a bingo blowout for the entire class. To prepare, provide students with blank, nine-square bingo game boards. Next, write some prefixes and suffixes on index cards and place these in a paper bag. On the board, write out a variety of base or root words, including adjectives (angry, sad, glad), verbs (help, create, lead) and nouns (friend, beauty, care). Next, ask students to choose any of the words and write one in each square of their bingo boards. To play, have a volunteer “caller” pick a random card from the bag and read it aloud. Students look at their boards and try to make a new word by adding the prefix or suffix to one of their base words and writing it below. Remind students to include any necessary spelling changes (they can use a dictionary for reference). Play continues until one student has a full board of new words and shouts “Bingo!” The class can work together to check the player's words and spelling.

Put Your Suffixes to Work!

We use many different suffixes to talk about the jobs people do: -ant, -ent, -er, -or, -ian, and -ist all mean a person who when added to a verb or noun. Help children practice their occupational suffixes with this activity. Invite each student to create a “want ad” describing a particular job. Have students include a base verb or noun as a clue in their ad, for example: Our school needs people to lead classes. If you like to teach, apply now! Post the ads on a bulletin board and invite students to “apply” for jobs they want. In their responses, students should use the appropriate suffix. For example: I want to be a teacher at your school.

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When the job board becomes full, discuss with students which suffixes were added to which base words to create the job titles (conduct/conductor, paint/painter, piano/pianist, and so on).