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Engaging Activities to Teach Prefixes and Suffixes

September 28, 2021 No Comments

One of the most important skills a reader needs is to be able to figure out what unfamiliar words mean. One strategy to help students determine the meanings of new words and phrases is recognizing prefixes, suffixes, and root words. When readers identify an affix in a new word they read, it can help them infer the word’s meaning.

This is a great vocabulary skill to teach to help students read more independently. And bonus, it will help with their spelling and writing, too!

But memorizing tons of prefix and suffix meanings is boooorrrrring! That’s why I’m going to share with you some of my favorite activities to keep students engaged while they review affixes and their meanings.

Introducing Prefixes and Suffixes

The beauty of affixes is that students are already using them in everyday conversation!

The concept won’t be brand new to students in 3rd, 4th, or 5th grade, but the language might be.

A simple way to introduce the terms prefix, affix, and root word/base word is to list some words that share a common prefix or suffix and asking students what they notice. (With younger students, you can write the affix in a different color.) Students should see that adding an affix to a word changes its meaning. You can use the acronym “P. S.” to help them remember that a prefix goes at the front and a suffix goes at the end of the word.

With 3rd and 4th graders, I recommend starting with common prefixes and suffixes they likely already know and use, such as re-, un-, -ly, and -ful. Students in 5th and 6th grades can tackle more complex Greek and Latin affixes and root words.

It’s helpful to create an anchor chart or to display affixes posters so students can refer to them all year long.

prefix and suffix posters on bulletin board

I also love to have students do a scavenger hunt in their books and around the room to find examples of prefixes and suffixes. They can write them on sticky notes and add them to an anchor chart or graphic organizer.

Once students have reviewed the basics, it’s time for some fun activities that will help them learn the meanings of common prefixes and suffixes so they can become stronger readers.

Prefix and Suffix Interactive Notebook

I find that repeated exposure to different affixes and their meanings is key for helping students recognize them in their reading. Using hands-on interactive notebook templates is a great way to give them practice.

prefix and suffix activities for ELA interactive notebook

These interactive notebook activities give students practice with defining prefixes and suffixes, brainstorming words that include common affixes, comparing negative prefixes (un-, non-, anti-, etc.), and more.

Hands-on Prefix and Suffix Sort

I love using hands-on sorts in every subject. In this printable and digital sorting activity, students identify words with prefixes, suffixes, both, and none. This works nicely to assess what students know and identify any misconceptions they have.

digital version of an affixes sorting activity

Affixes Color by Number Activities

These no-prep color-by-code worksheets are a fun way for students to review affixes. These are nice to have on hand to use as spiral review all year long. Plus they’re a great activity to leave with a substitute!

color by code worksheets to review prefix and suffix examples

Prefixes, Suffixes, and Root Words Digital Task Cards

I’m also a huge fan of using self-checking digital task cards in language arts. These prefix and suffix Boom cards are another engaging way to review affix meanings with a fun beach theme.

iPad with Boom cards for affixes

They give students TEI practice and are self-checking, too!

Printable clip cards are a fun non-digital task card option. Students stay engaged with these because they use a clothespin to indicate their answer on each card!

Cooperative Prefixes and Suffixes Activity

Sometimes you just need to get your students up and moving! Games and activities that get your students talking with each other and walking around the room can be a great break from worksheets.

This “fill the boxes” activity gets students interacting with each other as they find someone who can complete each box on the page.

cooperative game to practice root words, prefixes, suffixes in 3rd, 4th, or 5th grade

Prefix and Suffix Scavenger Hunt

I also love this scavenger hunt for a fun twist on traditional task cards. You can ask each student to start at a different card. They’ll answer the question and then find the card with that answer somewhere around the room. This activity is an easy way to get all your kids participating!

scavenger hunt activity to review prefix and suffix meanings

Prefix and Suffix Activity Bundle

If you want to save time, you can grab a bundle of 9 different prefix and suffix activities!

There are lots of ways to teach and review affixes with your 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders. When students can identify a prefix and/or suffix in a new word or phrase, they have another tool in their word analysis strategies toolbox. And that helps them become stronger readers as they encounter more challenging texts!

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