Learning to take apart compound words is also a useful decoding skill.
Sometimes, the parts of a multisyllabic word have meanings but are not complete words, such as in the word unfold. The root word fold has a meaning, but so does the prefix un-. Suffixes also have meanings, as in the word childish. You can help students learn and remember the prefixes and suffixes with simple word play. For example, students can make up words, such as unlook or purpleness, and then explain what these made-up words mean.
They can also look at words that have prefixes and suffixes and figure out what they mean. For example, they can figure out that the word reusable means “able to be used again.” The tool below can be used with students. It helps beginning readers build real and made-up words using root words, prefixes, and suffixes.
- Draw a line from a prefix to a root word. Write the new word. Write what it means.
- Draw a line from a root word to a suffix. Write the new word. Write what it means.
- Draw a line from a prefix to a root word and then from that root word to a suffix. Write the new word. Write what it means.
As students use prefixes and suffixes to build and figure out words, you can point out changes to the root word that might need to be made, such as leaving off the e in the word use to make reusable or doubling a final consonant before adding ‐ing, as in stopping.
Eventually, students should be able to look at words, think about the meanings of the word parts, and use this information to help them decode the words.