Need quick therapy materials targeting affixes or root words? Then you need my Prefix and Suffix Activities for Speech Therapy – Morphological Awareness packet! With over 200 clean, well-designed worksheets, targeting 50 prefixes and suffixes, you’ll get an entire year’s worth of therapy!
Read on for more information about why we target affixes, plus goal suggestions!
What if we could teach our vocabulary learners 50 words with just a handful of magical letters? Targeting affixes in speech therapy is one way to do just that!
Personally, I’m not sure I learned much about effective morphological interventions in grad school. Since then, I’ve done a ton of digging and learning and trial and error and wanted to share a few of my takeaways with you today.
Students with semantic difficulties are already at a disadvantage when it comes to vocabulary. Vocabulary development is one vital piece of the literacy development that we want to target as SLPs. Even if we focus on bang-for-your-buck Tier-2 vocabulary words, teaching one word at a time is too slow to catch them up to their peers.
Plus, it’s impossible to measure progress if you are teaching specific vocabulary. When do we say a student has mastered learning new vocabulary?
Instead, we can focus on evidence-based strategies, like teaching morphological analysis of prefixes and suffixes. Affixes are a huge clue to help students figure out word meanings, especially when they don’t have an awesome SLP perched on their shoulder 24/7. It’s effective and efficient, even for our bilingual students.
Understanding affixes significantly contributes to vocabulary development, reading comprehension, and other literacy skills (including spelling). Students with morphological awareness skills can use their knowledge to read (and understand!) unknown or less familiar words.
Breaking down words into their morphological parts (including identifying any prefixes or suffixes) is a helpful skill when improving both reading and written language. Many studies that I read indicated these interventions would be best for students with DLD (Developmental Language Disorder) or Dyslexia.
I’ve had great success using this type of intervention for students with language disorders with whom I might have previously targeted goals like context clues or tier 2 vocabulary.
And as far as age goes, research shows that children begin recognizing base words and morphological endings (like ‘ed’ or ‘ing’) as early as kindergarten (Wolter et al., 2009), with skills significantly increasing between 3rd and 5th grade.
For most children, root word familiarity and knowledge increases during the early elementary years (before 3rd grade). However, morphological awareness skills continue to develop through middle school, especially with more difficult affixes (including suffixes that change a word’s part of speech).
💡 If you want to read some research to support this type of intervention, check out Gellert et al., 2020. They provided a morphological intervention to middle school students with limited vocabulary knowledge. The students showed large short-term gains in word learning AND they retained those skills 10 months later!
And did you know that third and fourth graders accuracy in using morphological forms in their writing is predictive of their reading skills?! Knowledge of these word parts is so, so important!
In short, morphological interventions teach our students to break words apart (into morphemes) and recognize familiar word parts.
For example, the word “unrecognizable” might initially look long and confusing to students, but is made a lot easier to understand when you break it apart – “un” + “recognize” + “able”.
Components of effective morphological awareness interventions include…
🔹 Direct teaching
🔹 Targeted practice and…
🔹 Immediate practice in a functional reading or writing context.
Directly teaching and practicing common affixes can help your students recognize them in words they read. In my opinion, this is a more effective form of “context clues” as it truly helps your students make smart guesses about what new words mean.
Some easy ways to introduce this skill into your therapy might be targeting a new affix each week for the school year, teaching affixes and base words related to themed unit you’re already doing, or breaking down words that contain affixes found in texts your students are reading in class.
Components of effective morphological awareness interventions include direct teaching (why is this important and how will it help your students), targeted practice, and immediate practice in a functional reading or writing context.
I’ve included affix worksheets in my Themed Language Therapy Units, but now I’ve finally created a standalone product targeting affixes: the Speechy Musings Prefix and Suffix Activities for Speech Therapy – Morphological Awareness packet!
Using my affixes resource, you can teach common affixes different ways including by…
☝🏼 Targeting one affix at a time (ex: “-er”)
✌🏼 Breaking down a single word and discussing its affix (ex: in-visible)
PLUS activities for word building and word deconstruction
You will love this no-prep, simple product for consistent practice with your students with morphological needs. Just print and go or load it on your device for a no-print digital option!
Every page in my packet introduces a prefix or suffix word your students see every day in their classroom curriculum. Cement the meaning of the affix through multiple examples and opportunities to practice in example sentences.
It targets 50 functional and high frequency prefixes and suffixes, includes 4 different styles/levels of worksheet, comes in color and outline versions, and is just like many of my other resources:
You can extend your use of my speech materials by looking for affixes in classroom curriculum materials, novels, or Internet news articles. Challenge your students to hunt for matching prefixes and suffixes words in their regular reading materials. For students with reading difficulties, finding and matching a few letters is easier than seeking out longer words. Targeting affixes in speech therapy can easily translate to supporting our students with their educational needs.
When I target prefixes and suffixes, I like to use the following goals as a basic format:
You can individualize those goal by varying the context, such as within grade-level reading passages instead of at the word or sentence level.
For more goals, make sure to check out the Speechy Musings IEP Speech Therapy Goal Bank!
For students with dyslexia, teaching affixes is a vital part of providing structured literacy intervention. This study concludes that “children who understand the morphemic structure of words are far better equipped for reading and writing than those unfamiliar with word structure.” We can give our struggling students a huge boost in vocabulary, reading comprehension, and writing by targeting affixes in speech therapy.
While context clues are a great tool to teach vocabulary, sometimes context can be vague or misleading. This study discusses the advantages of including root word instruction to enhance vocabulary targets in speech therapy.
In case you’re not sold yet, check out some of these findings from research:
Keep in mind that the four most common prefixes (dis-, in-, re-, and un-) and suffixes (-ed, -ing, -ly, and –es) make up 97% of words containing affixes! They are a great place to start.
So next time you feel yourself wanting to teach context clues, try affixes instead and see how your students do!
If you have any questions about targeting affixes in therapy, let me know! I’d love to answer them in a future Q+A email!
Don’t forget, it would be disadvantageous to miss out on the power of teaching affixes to our students!
Kieffer, M. J., & Lesaux, N. K. (2007). Breaking down words to build meaning: Morphology, vocabulary, and reading comprehension in the urban classroom. The Reading Teacher, 61(2), 134–144.
McKeown, M. (2019). Effective vocabulary instruction fosters knowing words, using words, and understanding how words work. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools.