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Skill Overview

What is morphology?

Morphology is the study of meaningful units in a language and how they are combined to form words. A morpheme is the smallest unit of meaning in a word. Morphology includes base words (free morphemes), roots (bound morphemes) and affixes. 


What tasks should students be able to demonstrate to indicate mastery of this skill?

  • Identify the meanings and origins of words and word parts.

  • Apply morphological awareness to learn and build new words.


Why is understanding morphology important to reading?

Because the goal of reading is comprehension, understanding the meanings of word parts increases word knowledge and, thus, comprehension. Students who learn how to attach meaning to parts of words will be empowered to be better readers and spellers because they are able to recognize and build other words with shared morphological roots.  Students with strong morphological skills possess a distinct advantage over students who use a "whole word approach" to decode words.

Structured Literacy Tools

Sequential and Cumulative

Systematic and Explicit

To Mastery

Morphology instruction is word study.  When teaching morphology, like any other literacy skill, each morpheme will require explicit, direct instruction of its spelling(s), its origin, and its meaning.


Regular word study and word play help build a deeper knowledge of morphemes and demonstrates to students how words work and how knowledge of word parts helps readers expand their vocabulary and comprehend texts.

Every word and word part has an origin and carries meaning.  Students learning how to read are first exposed to one syllable words with short vowels or vowel teams, which are predominantly Anglo Saxon words, such as:

  • compound words

  • base words

  • high frequency words

  • inflections

  • other suffixes

At the end of the phonics scope and sequence, students begin to read multi-syllable words that contain roots and derivational affixes that come from the Latin origin. While there is no prescribed sequence for teaching affixes, those that occur most frequently should be introduced first.

In middle school and beyond, students begin to explore more domain-specific words as the curriculum expands.  Many words in the content areas of science, social studies, and math are formed by combining forms that originate from Greek.

Learning these word parts and origins helps students derive meaning from unknown words, spellings, and proper pronunciation.

There is no ceiling for language development; therefore, mastery is hard to measure.  However, students ability to use morphemes to create new words, apply morphemes to define words

recognize origin to help spell and pronounce words are all milestones that demonstrate a deeper understanding of morphology and how language works.

Practice Resources

Downloadable Files From BRI Resources
Downloadable Files From Literacy Partners



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