Word Detectives

Posted by on Aug 14, 2012 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

“Use what talents you possess; the woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best.” —Henry Van Dyke

The sale at my store continues today! Stop on by.

Happy Dance Certificate pdf


Many struggling readers need explicit instruction in how a prefix or suffix can change the meaning of a word. Learning clusters of words that share a common affix can help students understand their reading and connect new words to those already learned. Students need direct instruction of these skills. This helps them not only with the words being presented, but provides a strategy that supports them in figuring out difficult words on their own. This tool for word analysis should be practiced and reviewed often, especially during class read alouds and small group lessons.

There are far too many affixes to directly teach them all. It is important to realize that these few affixes account for the majority of affixed words in English:

Prefix Meaning % of All
Prefixed Words
un not; opposite of 26 unhappy
re again, back 14 reread
in /   im in, into, not 11 inactive
dis not; opposite of 7 discover
en /   em to cause to be in 4 entrust, enslave
mis wrongly 3 mistake
pre before 3 preheat
Suffix Meaning % of All
Suffixed Words
-s,   -es more than one; verb marker 31 songs, works, brushes
-ed in the past 20 talked
-ing when you do something 14 finding
-ly In a way that is 7 softly
-er,   -or one who, that which, comparison 4 teacher


-tion,   -sion State of being, quality 4 action, expansion
-able,   -ible


able to be 2 teachable, reversible

Once these basic affixes have been mastered, it might be useful to explore more complex or less frequently used word parts with some or all of your students.

Information in charts, with my adaptations for third graders, came from Allen, J. Words, Words, Words: Teaching Vocabulary in Grades 4–12. York: ME Stenhouse 1999.

Word Detective

My students have been delighted in their role of “Word Detective” to discover that the word “mistake” actually means to take wrongly and the word “display” does indeed refer to something that is not for play. The word “prefix” itself can cause an interesting discussion of the word “fix” and its meaning of fasten. These are such meaningful lessons. What can be better than knowing your students are having fun learning and exploring words!

Word Detective pdf

Leave a Reply