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Common Content Area Roots and Affixes

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Common Content Area Roots and Affixes

Grades 5 – 12
Printout Type Informational Sheet
Common Content Area Roots and Affixes



This printout offers 50 or so common roots, prefixes, and affixes that give students access to hundreds of key concepts across the content areas.

This printout has been reproduced from the following book: Ellery, V., & Rosenboom, J.L. (2011). Sustaining strategic readers: Techniques for supporting content literacy in grades 6-12. Newark, DE: International Reading Asssociation.

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If your students are unfamiliar with the process of analyzing a word for its roots and affixes, you may need to begin by defining prefix, root, and suffix (using examples from the science, social studies, and mathematics section of the Common Content Area Roots and Affixes).  Point out to students that once they are familiar with a root or affix, they can use that knowledge in multiple situations, increasing their vocabulary exponentially.

Use the chart as an inquiry tool by covering the “Meaning” column and asking students to determine the meaning of the common root, prefix, or affix based on the content of the other columns.  Students may be surprised at how much they already know and encouraged by the number of words their background knowledge gives them access to.


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  • When students have a handle on the function and structure of these word parts, model the process of dissecting words into prefixes, roots, and affixes and using knowledge of word parts to make meaning of unfamiliar words based on prior knowledge.
  • Have students explore the systematic effect certain suffixes have on roots.  The suffix “-ism” for example, can turn an adjective into a noun, while “-ful” transforms nouns into adjective.  Have students generate a list of such modifying suffixes and look for examples of them in their reading.
  • Ask students create a blank version of the Common Content Area Roots and Affixes chart to keep in a notebook they take with them throughout the day.  Challenge them to look for roots and affixes across content areas.  Keep a chart in the classroom that students are invited to add to throughout the school year, demonstrating their expanding word knowledge and know-how.


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Grades   6 – 8  |  Lesson Plan  |  Standard Lesson

Improve Comprehension: A Word Game Using Root Words and Affixes

Students study common root words and affixes, improve their comprehension and spelling, and make a card game in which they form words with a prefix, root word, and suffix.


Grades   6 – 8  |  Lesson Plan  |  Recurring Lesson

Flip-a-Chip: Examining Affixes and Roots to Build Vocabulary

Do your students detest having to define vocabulary words? Don"t confine them to worksheets—turn the study of affixes and roots into a hands-on contest to create context-rich vocabulary puzzles.


Grades   3 – 5  |  Lesson Plan  |  Standard Lesson

Rooting Out Meaning: Morpheme Match-Ups in the Primary Grades

In this lesson, students use morphemes—English words that have been formed by combining common word parts—to explore word meanings.


Grades   6 – 8  |  Lesson Plan  |  Standard Lesson

You Can't Spell the Word Prefix Without a Prefix

Students explore the role of prefixes, as well as their origins and meanings, and examine how the understanding of prefixes can improve comprehension, decoding, and spelling.


Grades   6 – 8  |  Lesson Plan  |  Recurring Lesson

Using a Word Journal to Create a Personal Dictionary

Students will be the definition of vocabulary experts as they use the skills they learn in this lesson to track, define, and ultimately master unfamiliar words.


Grades   6 – 8  |  Lesson Plan  |  Standard Lesson

ABC Bookmaking Builds Vocabulary in the Content Areas

V is for vocabulary. A content area unit provides the theme for a specialized ABC book, as students select, research, define, and illustrate a word for each alphabet letter.


Grades   9 – 12  |  Lesson Plan  |  Standard Lesson

Brave New Words: Novice Lexicography and the Oxford English Dictionary

Students become novice lexicographers as they explore recent new entries to the dictionary, learn the process of writing entries for the Oxford English Dictionary, and write a new entry themselves.