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xLanguage :: 6-9 :: Word Studyxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxhome
xTable of Contents:
xScheme for Presentation

The sensitive period for language is generally described as occurring between the ages of 6 - 8. During this time the child is interested in understanding the structure of language as defined through words, their function, and their relationships.

Montessori's notion of 'isolation of difficulty' again comes into play during this period. Language materials are based on the application of this principle, which allows the child to explore the elements of language one bit at time.

These presentations should take place in the 5 - 8 year age range.

xSuffix 1

Words are a little bit like people. They're born & give birth, grow & change, form families and sometimes pass away.

...to provide experience with the formation of words, that they can be of similar origin and acquire differences in meaning and function

...to develop a rich vocabulary and appropriate self-expression
...to develop spelling skills

Prerequisite: Language exercises in the Children's House.
- A review of the language exercises in the Children's House is essential before commencing the Elementary programme.

- Suffix Chart i
- Small movable alphabets in different colors
- colored pencils
- A dictionary suitable to the child's learning ability and understanding.

- Invite a small group of children, two or three is sufficient, to come and work with you.

- Leading them to the place reserved for the charts, invite one child to look for the chart with "Suffix i" written at the top.

- Ask him to read the first word in the first row and, returning to his table, to "compose" it with one of the movable alphabets. The child goes back and forth, remembers the words of that row and "composes" them, one under the other, in a column.


Example: teach teacher teaching

is formed by the child in this way:


- The other children of this group do the same with other rows of their choice using the same alphabet.

- Invite the children to read what they composed and to see if there is something, in their column, that does not change, and if there is something that changes.

- Ask the children to remove the part of each word that has changed and replace it with letters of an alphabet of a different color.

- One child now brings the chart to check the spelling. [Never allow an incorrect spelling to remain on the table. After composing the word, the child must always check with the chart - this makes a direct correction by the teacher unnecessary.]

- Explain: " The part of the word that changes is called suffix. Suffix comes from Latin suffixum, a form of the verb suffigere, meaning to fasten beneath. These little changes are attached at the end of the word."

- Show the children how to collect the letters and to return them to their proper compartments.

- At a later stage the child works with the chart at his table.

Follow up work: The children use the other rows of the chart as indicated. They can form with the movable alphabets, other sets of words which show a given permanent part and the suffixes which can be added to it.

Encourage the children to write their work paying particular attention to their handwriting.

xRoot Words


...prepared charts of affixes (word endings)
...2 small movable alphabets (different colors)
...colored pencils
...dictionary suitable to the child's abilities

- Repeat the same procedures used for the presentation of the suffix. When the child sees the constant part of the words, explain:

- ... "This part that does not change is called the root of the word. It is something like the root of a plant - other parts come out from it"

- Conduct a second and third period of the lesson asking the child to show you "the suffix"..."the root" of different words formed with the movable alphabet. Then, pointing to one of those parts ask for its name ... "what is the name of this part of the word?"...

N.B. A dark color alphabet is used to represent the root of the word.

Follow up work:
The child can investigate different words, either with the movable alphabets or by writing them on paper [with pencils of different color], looking for the root and the suffix whenever this occurs. He checks these words in a dictionary. Pay particular attention to handwriting at all times.

Read some words from the chart and ask the child to tell you which part is the root of the word and which part is the suffix.

"Listen to these words: work/worker/worked"
"Which part of the work did not change?" ...work [root]
"Which part of the word is added on?...er" [suffix er]
ed [suffix ed]

xSuffix 2



- Suffix Chart ii
- Small movable alphabets in different colors
- colored pencils
- A dictionary suitable to the child's reading ability and understanding.

[Given after the study of the root]

- Follow the same procedure as for the presentation of the suffix. Allow time for the child to see, through the formation of these words, that there are suffixes that can be attached to different roots giving them a very special meaning. For example:

[root] + [suffix] [implies] [examples]
---- less lack, without, free from
---- ful abundance, ability, delightful
having plenty of that merciful
---- er the performer of an action writer

Follow up work: The child is invited to try different words affixing suffixes to them and discuss the meaning added to the word by each suffix. The emphasis here is in the exploration of language; no scientific accuracy is either needed or to be expected.

N.B. When the child is familiar with the parts of speech and their classifications, the suffix is to be presented as causing a word to change its function. For example, the word 'quick' [adjective] becomes an adverb by the addition of the suffix 'ly.'

From this presentation, new follow up activities will result enriching the child's understanding of his language.



- Prefix Chart
- Small movable alphabets in different colors
- colored pencils
- A dictionary suitable to the child's reading ability and understanding.

- "Listen to these words: cover, discover, recover"..."Do you hear anything that is repeated in each of the words?" ... All of them are formed from the word cover.

- [Give other examples]

- From here on, you follow the pattern of the suffix presentation.

- Discuss the meaning of each word with the child or ask him to look in the dictionary.

- Explain: "This time the meaning of the word changes because something has been added to the beginning of the root. This small part added to the root is called "prefix".
The word prefix comes from the Latin "praefigere" which means - fix in front of.

Follow up activity: The child works with the other words in the chart and continues looking for the words which use a prefix. Encourage the child to write up his work in beautiful handwriting.

Rather than using the movable alphabet the child may use a black colored pencil for the root of the word and a colored pencil for the prefix or alternately underline the different parts of the word with the colored pencils.



- Collection of boxes such as matchbox, toolbox, bugbox, pillbox, lunchbox
- A dictionary suitable to the child's reading ability and understanding.

- The child identifies those boxes he knows [the teacher names those unknown to the child]. Discuss the use of each box with the child:

- ... "This a matchbox ... what is it for? How do you know it is for matches?. Is box an object? Is match an object?
How many different words do you hear in the name matchbox?.


- [Bringing the alphabets] ... "Form the name with two different colors".

- Do the same with other boxes. The children, having had the experience of this presentation, can see why these types of words are 'compound words'. They name only one object but the name itself is formed with more than one word.

Follow up work: The child continues to work with all the words of the chart. He looks for other compound words and can play a game of finding more compound words ...

- Let's choose a word, e.g., "light". How many compound words can we make with it? [sunlight, spotlight, daylight, etc]

Choose another word. Continue to work in this way until the child understands the meaning of compound words. Encourage the child to write the words paying particular attention to spelling and handwriting.



N.B. Most of this work can be done with the Verb Grammar Boxes and the related Commands, even though the proper place for the study of SYNONYMS is this WORD STUDY section.

- to make the child aware of the richness of the English language;
- to motivate him to choose the best words to express his ideas.

Prerequisites: Language exercises in the Children's House. This exercise is parallel to the exercises in Affixes.

Material: A dictionary suitable to the child's reading ability and understanding.

- In the form of a game of words, have the children suggest alternative ways of expressing an idea . For example,...

- "Let's play a game of words. Who can think of a word similar in meaning to 'pretty'?...[nice, cute, beautiful, handsome, etc.]

- "All these words are close to each other in meaning, yet we use them differently:
"Would you say that a flower is handsome?" Of course not". Which word would you choose?"

- Continue the game applying the words suggested by the children to different situations ...

- They should conclude that, even though the meaning is somehow similar, we should make a wise choice in applying them.

- Explain:..." Words which are close to each other in meaning are called SYNONYMS, from Greek 'syn', together and 'onoma', name.
So they are words of similar meaning."

Follow up work: The child can play this game with his friends using different words and finding alternative ways to express a similar idea.

The teacher offers examples with synonyms asking the child if the similarity in meaning of those words makes the ideas more interesting and clearer:

- From newspaper headings;

- Invite the child to read a short story which he wrote previously and to make it more expressive if possible by using more appropriate synonyms.

Encourage the child to pay particular attention to grammar, spelling and handwriting.



Antonyms (Greek 'opposite' + 'name')
Antonyms are words which are opposite in meaning.

- Follow the same procedure as for synonyms. This game would involve finding words that are opposite in meaning.

short tall
up down
right wrong
bad good
new old
hard soft
loose tight
front back
big little
black white
bottom top
clean dirty
cold hot
dark light
deep shallow
in out
dry wet
easy hard
empty full
far near
fast slow
few many
wide narrow

xHomonyms, Homophones, Homographs


Homonym: a word of the same spelling or sound as another but with a different meaning, e.g., grate (fireplace), grate (to rub), great (large).

Homophone: a word with the same sound as another but with a different spelling, e.g., sun, son

Homograph: a word that is written like another but has a different meaning or origin, e.g., bat (a flying animal), bat (for striking a ball).

Purpose: Awareness of the existence of words which, having the same or similar sound, may be spelled differently in order to understand their meaning.

Prerequisite: Initial work with Synonyms and Antonyms .

Materials: Cards to be prepared by the teacher.

- Invite the child to listen carefully:
"I cleaned the grate". "I will grate the cheese."
"We carried a great load."

- "Can you repeat the words having the same sound?"

- "Do they mean the same thing?"

- "They have different meaning and different spelling also.

- "These words are called HOMONYMS, from Greek 'homos, the same and 'onoma, name."

- Invite the child to write short phrases or sentences with these words.


Follow up work: The child takes some examples of homonyms to construct short sentences taking particular care of the appropriate meaning and spelling and taking great care with his handwriting.

xWord Families


Purpose: to further explore the components of words and how they relate through their root.

Prerequisite: Extensive work with Affixes.

Materials: Same as for Affixes.
- Word Families Chart.

- Ask the child to read aloud one row of words in the chart and discuss their meaning with him . Encourage the use of a dictionary.
- With the child, look for a syllable or group of letters that is present in all the words discussed and explain:

"This group of letters is not always at the beginning of the word but seems to be the most important part of it". "Do you remember the name of this part? -The root- Let's form it with the movable alphabet darkest in color."

"Are there any prefixes? -Form them in another color."

"Are there any suffixes? -"Choose a third color to form them.

- "Since all these words have a common root, we say that they are a word family much the same as a human family is a group of people born from the same parents .

1) theo/logy a/the/ist poly/the/ism
Doro/thy en/thus/iasm apo/theo/sis.

All these words form a family born from the root theo - sometimes reduced to a mere th - which means GOD. All of them imply a divine element in their meaning which, by means of prefixes and suffixes, becomes unique and individualized.

Theology: The study of the nature of God.
Atheist : a person who disbelieves in the existence of god.

Polytheism: doctrine sustaining the existence of many gods.
Dorothy: proper name meaning 'gift of God'.
Enthusiasm: divine like inspiration, divine passion.
Apotheosis: deification, exaltation to divine rank.
2) morph/o/logy a/morph/ous form/al con/form form/ula

All these words form a family born from the Greek root morphe, form changed through Latin into forma, meaning also form.

Morphology: the study of form and structure .
Amorphous: without form.
Formal: pertaining to form
Conform: to have the same form or character.
Formula: small form (diminutive of forma)


Follow up work: Invite the child to work with the chart and with the dictionary. The child records his findings. Interesting discussions originate from this investigation. The emphasis should be on the child's exploration of word families not in the absolute accuracy of his findings.

After using the alphabets for the first exercises, the child
can use colored pencils and paper. Underlining the components of the words with different colors is sufficient as the child becomes more familiar with the exercises. Encourage good handwriting and neat work at all times.

N.B. This presentation incorporates all the aspects of the word study, and is suitable for children about nine years of age and onward.