Base Words Lesson

Base words or root words gives word its basic meaning. Base words can have a prefix or a suffix added to it. Usually when an affix is added to a base word it will change its meaning. This summer, I took a reading class and learned an activity to help teach students about base words. This activity will help students notice what happens when they add prefixes and suffixes (affixes) to them. The spelling of some base word will change and so will its meaning. This lesson will introduce or help struggling students with base words and adding affixes to them to make "new words". This Base Word's lesson would be ideal during small group time but can be used for whole group too. 

Some prep is needed, but very easy. You will need sentence strips or index cards to write the base words and affixes on. I would separate the prefixes, base words, and suffixes by color. For example: write the prefixes: un, re, dis, non, mis, pre on a set of "blue cards" Write: ness, less, ed, ly, ing, s, ful, able, er, and est on a set of "red cards". Write the base words on "white cards". Here is a list of 30 base words used for this lesson: agree, appear, believe, build, care, clean, color, comfort, connect, cover, forgive, happy, harm, help, hope, like, love, move, open, organize, pack, place, play, power, read, stop, test, turn, use, write, and view.  

Before you begin the activity, you should pair beginning students up with a partner. Students can help each other make words and verify with each other if the new words they are making are real words and not nonsense words. More advanced students can work independently.

To start the activity, choose a base word. Students use the prefixes and suffixes cards to move around the base word to make new words. For example: If using the base word, CARE, students can make new words like caring, careful, uncaring, and so on. They can also see how two suffixes can be added to the base word like, carelessness and carefully. Students need to be careful when adding affixes to base words. Some affixes will not make sense when added to the base word. For example; discare or carely. This is a good time to talk about nonsense words. If students are unsure of a word, encourage them to look them up in a dictionary to see which affixes can be added to the base word. I love "".
When student begin adding affixes to the base word, they will need to know some spelling rules as they write their new words down. This is a great time to discuss how the base word can change its spelling pattern when suffixes are added. Sometimes you have to drop the "e" and add "ing" or "ed," and sometimes you have to double the consonant to keep the short vowel sound. Either way, students will be learning or reviewing those tricky spelling rules!

Another thing this lesson helps with is how the meaning of the base word will change when adding affixes to them. For example; by adding "ing" to care this would mean you care for something at that moment. But when adding the suffix "less" to care, this would mean you are without care. This is a great opportunity to learn new vocabulary words!

FREE Prefix and Suffix Poster
Here is a FREEBIE that has a list of affixes used for this lesson. This will help students remember the meaning of each prefix and suffix as they create new words. Use the freebie for a poster to hang in the classroom or have students cut and paste the boxes into their writing journal.
Just click the picture on the left to download it right here on the blog.

As students move the prefix and suffix cards around to make new words, they should be writing their words down on a white board or in their writing journal. This would be a good time to check students understanding. Are they spelling the new words correctly? Are they making real words? Can they understand the new meaning when an affix is added? Can they recognize base words? Students will surely understand base words after this lesson.

Base Words Worksheets
I have created a set of worksheets that have the 30 base words that are listed above.  Each worksheet displays a base word and the affixes that can be added to the word to make new words. Instead of the students writing their words on a white board or in their journal, you can use these worksheets. The worksheets extent to separating the new words according to the spelling rule or by segmenting the new words apart by prefix, base word, and suffix. The worksheets also have students writing the definition of the new word or they write a sentence that displays the meaning on the new word. Use these worksheets for continued practice at a reading center. As students become more proficient, they will be able to work independently. You can also send these worksheets home for homework or to check understanding as an assessment. 

This worksheet pack also includes a Google Link for Google Slides. The Google  Slides are great for Google Classrooms and for those classrooms that are going paperless. Here are some examples of the worksheets in this pack:

Base Words ExampleBase Words Worksheets Example 2
Here are sentence strips I found on Amazon if you need them.
Assorted Color Sentence Strips
White Sentence Strips
Dry Erase Sentence Strips
Sentence Strip Rolls

Here are some helpful resources when teaching prefixes and suffixes. I found some great deals on Amazon.:
Prefix and Suffix Bingo Game
Domino Word Building
Prefix and Suffix Cards
Prefix, Suffix, Base Words Puzzles
Prefix and Suffix Linking Cubes

Here is the book I used to complete these Base Words Lessons:
Readers and Writers in Primary Grades

Here's to Base Words and students understanding them!
See you soon,

Reading Resources for the Classroom
For more reading resources from Teacher's Take-Out, click the picture. 


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  2. Thank you for sharing the worksheet pack and Google Slides. I decided to print out a sheet of words that start with s that are positive (S stands for students and study.)

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  4. The "Base Words Lesson" offers a foundational exploration into the building blocks of language, providing students with a fundamental understanding of word formation and structure. Through engaging activities and interactive exercises, this lesson empowers learners to recognize and analyze base words, unlocking the key to deciphering unfamiliar vocabulary with ease. By mastering the concept of base words, students gain invaluable skills that serve as a springboard for expanding their vocabulary and enhancing their overall language proficiency. With clear explanations and comprehensive practice opportunities, the "Base Words Lesson" lays a solid groundwork for linguistic exploration and growth, fostering a love for learning and language discovery in students of all ages.
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