Approximate time to complete: 50 minutes 

Download the Course Companion document before starting this course. You can use the Companion Document to take notes on your learning, address reflection prompts, and as an easy way to retrieve course resources.  

Course Objectives:

Participants will be able to...

  • Explain the meaning of morphology and its importance for adolescent literacy 
  • Incorporate some common strategies for morphology instruction into their classroom

Consider This Scenario

Connection Point

In your Course Companion Document, consider these questions:  

  • Can you relate to this scenario? In what ways are your challenges in literacy instruction similar or different? 

Mr. Stevens has been working with his 9th grade history class on learning about different systems of government that have emerged over the last few centuries. One of the things he noticed is that many of his students struggle to understand the texts he has had them read, especially when they contain complex words that are unique to the study of history and government. He has tried explicit vocabulary instruction including word introduction, providing student-friendly definitions, giving examples and non-examples and checking for student understanding. This helped him to teach a number of tier 3 words. However, students are still struggling to fluently read texts and comprehend what they read. 

Morphology, the study of word forms, could help Mr. Stevens to more consistently support his students. 

What is Morphology?

Morphology is the study of word forms, including the rules by which words are formed. Direct instruction in morphology involves explicitly teaching students the meanings of word parts - roots, prefixes, and suffixes - and clarifying how this knowledge can be used to derive word meanings.   

  • Prefixes are the morphemes that come at the beginning of different types of words. The un- in undo, uncover, unearth is a prefix.  
  • Suffixes are the morphemes that come at the end of different types of words. The -er in painter, singer, worker is a suffix. 
  • Roots are the basis of a word and usually carry meaning


demonstration of morphology with the word unreadable

This video by Diana Townsend explains how morphology can support students' understanding of academic vocabulary and content. There is a place in your Course Companion to take notes on the video. 

Why Teach Morphology? 

What are some strategies to teach morphology in an adolescent classroom? This video by Dr. Dianna Townsend provides a deeper overview of morphology along with some strategies for incorporating it into instruction. There is a place in your Course Companion to take notes on the video. 

Keep in mind as you take this learning back to your classroom, coaching, or the professional learning you develop, that students need to: 
  • Develop independent word-learning strategies 
  • Learn from explicit, engaging exposures in multiple contexts
  • Practice and personalize word meanings multiple times
  • Build word consciousness
  • Participate in rich classroom instruction

Knowledge Check

Take this brief quiz to text your knowledge. Click the square button to expand the quiz.


Take a moment to familiarize yourself with the following resources for teaching morphology: 

  • NCTE provides a List of morphemes that are common across content areas  
  • Have students use word webs, like this example provided by Literacy How, to help them understand the interconnections among words. 
  • Have students build a word matrix for a morpheme or combine word parts from an existing matrix to generate multimorphemic words. This interactive site allows you to build your own matrices.  

You can use these strategies to teach morphology to students:  

  • Have students compare the meanings of the words generated through word building activities and explain how the prefixes, roots and suffixes contribute to the word meanings.  
  • Have students keep track of common morphemes in a vocabulary notebook. 
  • If you are using an explicit vocabulary routine, consider ways to incorporate a study of word morphology into the routine.  

Course Reflection

In your Morphology Course Companion document, answer the following questions: 

  1. Reflect on your learning. What are two or three things that you learned during the course that helped you to better understand the importance of morphology in literacy instruction?  
  2. What else to you need to learn before you can fully implement morphology into your instruction?  
  3. What are two or three action steps that you can take to start implementing morphology into your work? 

To Learn More

If you want learn more, please see the following resource: 

  • Ohio Literacy Academy 2019: Word Smarts- Using Morphology Bases & Affixes to Develop Vocabulary Skills presented by William Van Cleave (video; handout)


Please take a moment to fill out this feedback form. We will use your feedback to improve this and other courses. 

Last Modified: 4/11/2024 3:52:25 PM