More about morpheme matrices and word family webs

Morpheme matrices, devised by Melvin Ramsden, are a key tool in looking at the meaning and spellings of words. At the very start of using morpheme matrices, you might want to limit the prefixes to just one, e.g. un- so that you can discuss the difference the prefix makes to a word.

A simple grid might look like this:

  well  
  able  
un luck y
  friend ly

Pupils can work from left to right, joining morphemes together to create words.

One of the challenges of working with morphemes is enabling pupils to understand where the morphemes are in a word. The above matrix will support that development as will putting morphemes onto cards that pupils then put together to make words.

Once the children understand the meaning of some prefixes and suffixes, matrices which involve adding a range of both to a root or base element can be used, discussing each morpheme’s meaning. A more complex matrix might look like this.

Whether simple or complex, pupils can make words from these matrices, discuss their meaning (and spelling) and make up ‘unreal’ or ‘silly’ words sharing what they mean. For example, from the more complex ‘act’ matrix, if it contained the prefix ‘de-‘ you could create the word ‘deacting’. Children could then enhance their learning by writing a dictionary definition of the created word.

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An Introduction to Teaching Vocabulary

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