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Morphology and... Monsters???

Updated: Feb 28, 2023

Okay, real talk-time here... does morphology instruction scare you little bit? It can be so overwhelming! Where do you start? If you've ever felt any of this, then today's post is for you!

First, I am going to provide some basic information you need to know. Then I am going to give you a fun, easy, low-prep, little-hassle-but-oh-so-effective starting point for your morphology instruction. I will even feature a few of my own students' creative morphology work! Last, I have a great resource to share with you as well!


What is morphology? By definition, morphology refers to the study of morphemes, which are the smallest units of meaning in a word. Morphology instruction includes a close study of affixes (prefixes and suffixes) as well as the roots or base words and word origins.

Why is this important?

"... while phonics instruction may enable a student to pronounce and spell words in isolation, unlocking meaning is predicated on vocabulary knowledge in context and on interpretation of idiomatic, literal and figurative language. A wide vocabulary is a necessary pre-requisite for precise communication and interpretation of text; thus, any remedial program for students with language deficits should include both of these components: phonics and vocabulary instruction."

You can read more about that here!


This is the part I love. I always begin my morphology instruction with new students with this simple visual creation: the morpheme monster. Please excuse my lack of artistic ability; it gets the job done! Notice the construction of the word around this "monster" design. The head represents a prefix, the body is the base word, and the tail is the suffix.

Note: I always start with the use of "base word" rather than "root word." A base word can stand on its own and holds its own meaning. The meaning changes when we add either prefixes or suffixes, and I want my students to understand the effects of those affixes as well as the stand-alone nature of the base word once those affixes are removed. Since I am teaching that morphemes are the smallest units of meaning, I want my students to be able to discuss the meaning of each part. A "root word" does not always carry its own meaning.

Notice in the picture above: I have draw my morpheme monster on paper, but it is inserted into a page protector. This enables me to use the same morpheme monster to teach about different morphemes (prefixes and suffixes) as time passes. I can draw the morpheme monster hundreds of ways, but once I create this with a group of students, I try to keep the image consistent for them.

What fun would it be if I did the drawing alone, though? Check out some the fantastic morpheme monsters my students have drawn! Once we create the monsters, we apply this concept to real words. I dictate words that feature our current prefixes/suffixes of study, and they write each portion of the word under their morpheme monster.

This student has a double-headed monster! Isn't that a neat way to think of words with multiple affixes?

Let's not forget that many of our dyslexic learners are also highly creative, so tapping into this mindset brings a whole new energy to our word study!

Oh, and did you know that Nessy has a fantastic video that demonstrates this same concept?? Your students can enjoy and learn from this video, regardless of how many affixes they have mastered so far.


If you just need more, but don't have time to make/create/think through (oh my goodness, how much brainpower do you have left at the end of a school day anyway?!?) everything that comes after the starting point, then I have you covered.

My "Morpheme Monsters" pack has everything you need to provide engaging, hands-on instruction with prefixes and suffixes! The skills included span from kindergarten to sixth grade, so there's literally something for everyone!

In all, this product contains:

* Over 40 drill cards for affixes and their meanings

* A "Morpheme Munch" game to help students distinguish between word parts that are, and are not, morphemes. (Suitable for grades K, 1, 2, 3)

* A "Morpheme Memory Match" game modeled after the game of concentration, in which students try to match affixes to their meanings. (Suitable for all grades K-6)

* A "Make-a-Monster" activity in which students play with word parts to create a fun monster name. Additionally, students must apply their knowledge of morphemes to explain the meaning of their monsters. (Suitable for grades K, 1, 2, 3)

Regardless of what grade you teach, you should easily be able to pick and choose grade-appropriate affixes to use with your students and differentiate your instruction as needed!

If interested, check it out here!

Also, be sure to visit the "Morphology" tab on the Tally Tales home page! There are several additional resources there. I hope this has been helpful, but please feel free to contact me if you have any other questions.


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