Meaningful Word Study...thanks to Morphology!

One of my absolute FAVORITE things to teach each week is Word Study. Words have always fascinated me...their origins, their meanings, their power when used in speaking and writing. And, I've found over the years, it's really easy to get 5th graders excited about the power of words as well!

Which is why our Morphology Dictionary is the heart of spelling and vocabulary learning in our class.

My students use this dictionary with each new set of words we study. They just love to find common affixes and roots, as well as learning their meanings. I love how I am able to create high-level, meaningful, and differentiated word lists for my students each week.

And it's really easy to do!

I start each new unit by looking over the content we will be covering for the week...especially in Science, Social Studies, and Math.

I find all of the key vocabulary we will encounter during the week:
and find affixes and roots to support these words from the Teacher Word List resource that comes with the student Morphology Dictionary:
(there are over 7,500 words to choose from in here, so I can usually find some words to connect to our learning for the week!)

I check off the words I'd like to use and create a list for my upper-level group first (this is usually a 25 or 30 word list). This word list will be used for a spelling test on Friday, as well as a vocabulary test every couple of weeks.

After creating the first list, I eliminate some of the more complex words and create subsequent lists for my 20 Word and 10 Word groups:
I work with a very diverse population of 5th graders and we always, always say how everyone learns the material they need. But what I love the most is that we all learn the same thing, just differentiated for our needs.

So, each Monday, students receive their new list, pull out their Morphology Dictionaries, and start identify common affixes and roots they see within their lists. 

We share out our findings on the document camera and highlight those affixes and roots:
Next, we record them in our Morphology Dictionaries:
On our word list sheets (which the students take home to study) we record any prefixes, suffixes, and roots we've identified:
as well as their meanings, as found in our dictionaries:
This is my second year of using our Morphology Dictionary and it has truly transformed the way my students approach words. They think deeply about their meanings and make connections throughout the week...nothing warms my heart more than to hear "hey, this word has the root 'pop' like population!". It is the best :)

If you are interested in the spelling sheet we use, you can download it and customize it here (it's in a Powerpoint format):
If you would like to read more about the Morphology Dictionary, you can see it in store (at a discounted price) by clicking the image below:
Thank you so much for visiting! Up next, classroom tour!


  1. LOVE your morphology dictionary. The absolute BEST part is when the students begin to identify other words and meanings in their own independent work - and the fact that they want to SHARE this knowledge at home. :) I also love how you differentiate for your different groups of learners - they are so lucky to have you!

    Runde's Room

  2. This is amazing work!!! Thanks so much for sharing this idea! :) Melissa

  3. Waiting as patient as a kid on Christmas morning for your classroom tour! So excited to see what you have in store!

  4. Just bought it, and I'm sooooooooooooooooo excited!!!

  5. Is there a specific root that you work with first? (latin, anglo-saxon, etc.?) I bought your dictionary this fall thinking I would have the vocabulary group in our MTSS (RTI) times, but I ended up getting a smaller phonics intervention group. How does your word study time look throughout the week? I teach fourth, but we have class switches, 55 minute periods. I'm wanting to switch things up and use more word studies in my ELA classes. Thank you so much for all of your help and sharing your terrific ideas!

    Teaching Tales Along the Yellow Brick Road

    1. Hi Christy, I'm so sorry for the delay, I don't know how I missed this in my email!!

      I choose the roots and affixes based on words we will encounter during the week whenever possible. We notebook the words (recording sentences, definitions, illustrations, etc.) about 2 to 3 times a week and also use Spelling City's vocabulary activities. If you would like more information, please feel free to email me at ladybugresources at yahoo dot com if you'd like :)

  6. This is EXACTLY what I was wondering: how you use this in your classroom! Our whole teach purchased licenses to use this in August, but I was wondering the most effective way of doing it. I also just bought your math and parts of speech posters - I LOOOOOVE them! My 6th graders seriously struggle remembering the parts of speech (half my class thought a cat was a verb), and I think that attaching it to roots/prefixes/etc. will really help them. THANK YOU for sharing your awesome products, and thanks for making them look so dang cute!

    1. Hi and thanks for the kind words about the products!!

      I use the dictionary as shown in the post above to formulate our spelling/word study lists for the week. We use composition notebooks to write definitions, sentences in context, synonyms, etc. We also use Spelling City for the vocabulary interactives during the week. The dictionary is our primary resource that we begin our study with each week, then we branch out to these activities. If you would like to talk more about this, please don't hesitate to email me at ladybugresources at yahoo dot com. Thanks again!

  7. I Love your blog
    what do y think to be the first in signing your blog link in my 1st blog party?
    I m waiting for you
    greetings from Italy

  8. Hey! I love your stuff! just have to add this bit of info... I am also very into words and spelling, and I feel very compelled to correct you on one teeny little thing.... I am copying this bit of info from a very trusted linguist..:-)ISuffixes don't include

    Although the string often occurs at the end of a word, it isn't a suffix, since the part of the word remaining after removing often lacks meaning; or if it is meaningful, its meaning is generally unconnected with the original word.

    A suffix is a morpheme which must be attached to a preceding suffix or base. Try thinking of counter-examples where might be a suffix to see if it really is the case.

    For example, the suffix at the end of the word is <−ion> and not .

    The base plus suffix <−ion> forms which has a clear connected meaning compared to the original base .

    If were a suffix, we'd be forced to relate the word to the string which is a prefix (related to the prefix), and we would find ourselves with a suffix attached to a prefix rather than to a suffix or base. More importantly, our analysis would have produced a word with no base, which is impossible.

    The suffix at the end of the word is also <−ion>. At first sight, it might look as if was meaningless, but in fact it's a useful base element with a notion of 'breaking'. It occurs in words such as , and .

  9. A wonderful resource to use for your class....check out this blog.. These kids are amazing!!!
    Mrs. Steven's classroom blog.


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