Prefixes and Suffixes with ELLs

Prefixes and Suffixes with ELLs

Prefixes and Suffixes for ELLs

Teaching students the meaning of prefixes and suffixes is a great way to increase their vocabulary. When they know basic prefixes and suffixes they are better able to use context clues to determine the meaning of unknown words. This is true for all students, but it is particularly helpful for English Language Learners, as they may not be familiar with some of the words that have affixes from past exposure.

Some suffixes can make changes to words such as tense, number, possession or comparison. A simple way to introduce this to ELLs is through making a simple chart. Have a list of words without the suffix and then add words that have the suffix. You can also create charts that show the differences in spelling when adding a suffix to the word.

Suffixes/Inflectional Morphemes Added to a word How it changes a word
-s noun plural
-er adjective comparative
-est adjective superlative
-ed verb past tense
-ing verb progressive
-en verb past participle


Suffixes Grammatical Category Base Grammatical Category with Suffix
-er verb noun
-ee verb noun
-ee verb noun
-less noun adjective

Here are some of my favorite ways to practice this vocabulary topic with English Language Learners.

Word Sorts

There are so many ways to use word sorts with affixes! Students can sort words into groups based on common prefixes or suffixes. They can sort words based on spelling patterns, such as the different ways that a word ending changes when adding -ing. You can quickly model a word sort to show a spelling pattern and review the meaning of the words that you are using.


Verb Verb + -ed How it changes the word
walk walked past tense
ask helped past tense
help helped past tense


Puzzles are a quick way for students to practice creating words that have an affix in it. You can have students use recording sheets to write down the words that they create. You can also print out puzzles and have students add the to an interactive vocabulary notebook.

suffixes puzzles

Task Cards

When I was working with a group of 3rd grade ELLs they needed to be able to identify affixes in the context of what they were reading. The challenge was that these ELLs were reading below grade level. Most of the books at their reading level did not have many prefixes or suffixes in them. Instead what I did was created short prefix and suffix task cards with one or two easy to read paragraphs that had prefixes and suffixes in them. Then my students were able to practice identifying affixes in the context of what they were reading.

prefix task card with the prefixes highlighted

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