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Morphology 101

Updated: Mar 12, 2023

On my last Wacky Word Wednesday post, I briefly mentioned that Morphology doesn’t fit squarely into Scarborough’s Reading Rope and how we can embrace that. Today, I want to share with you why we can embrace Morphology and why it is so important to becoming a skilled reader!


First up, what is it?

Morphology is the study of how words are formed. When I include morphology instruction I typically will teach: root words, prefixes, and suffixes.


A morpheme is the smallest meaningful unit. This differs from a phoneme which is the smallest sound. A morpheme can be made up of more than one phoneme. A morpheme must communicate meaning to the reader, but it does not necessarily have to be a complete word. For example, in the word "misspelled" the morphemes are mis-, spell, and -ed. Each morpheme communicates something to the reader.


A root is a type of morpheme. We can add morphemes to the root to make the word grow bigger. For example, the root in misspelled is: spell. On it’s own the root, spell, is a word.


An affix is morpheme that is added to a root word. There are two main types of affixes: prefixes, and suffixes. On it's own, an affix is not a word.

A prefix is an affix which is added to the beginning of a root.

A suffix is an affix which is added to the end of a root. (there are also different types of suffixes but we will dive into those in a later post)


Why is morphology so important?

When we include morphology instruction it directly supports both language comprehension and word recognition. Think about it... we read to understand what someone is communicating. Likewise, we write because we want to communicate our own thoughts through words. Language comprehension and word recognition are necessary to become a skilled reader. Let me explain.


When your child hears or reads an unfamiliar word, if they have a good grasp of morphology, they will be able to do two things.

1. They will be able to break the word down into known morphemes and then blend them together to read the word.

2. They will be able to analyze the meaning of each morpheme and put them together to understand the meaning of the word.


The first shows how morphology supports word recognition.

The second shows how morphology supports language comprehension.


Like I mentioned on last Friday’s blog, Morphology like phonics, alone is not enough to become a skilled reader. However, when we include morphology or target morphology, we can support both language comprehension and word recognition. Thus, we can help students become skilled readers!

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