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Why Morphology Instruction Is Important

Updated: Apr 15

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Language is a complex system of intricate connections between words and meanings. It is complex code used to communicate. Morphology is the foundation and framework of English spelling (Hegland, 2021) and contributes to the overall sense of a word. Morphology is the study of morphemes. Morphemes are the smallest meaningful unit of language (Hegland, 2021). Morphemes can be standalone words, like “book”, called free morphemes, or they can be parts of words like prefixes, suffixes, or roots. 


So why spend time on morphology in the classroom?

Studying language, particularly morphemes, helps students unlock the secret code that creates our language. It is an essential task to understand language. The magic lies in how these morphemes combine and rearrange to form words. 

  1. Understanding morphemes empowers students to decipher the meaning of unfamiliar words by breaking them down into recognizable parts. Once they grasp the meaning of a few morphemes they can unlock a multitude of related words. For instance, knowing that bio means life, of living things, opens doors to words like biology, biography, or biosphere. 

  2. When students comprehend how morphemes work, they grasp the nuances of word meanings.  This knowledge enhances their ability to comprehend. 

  3. Learning about morphemes opens the door to the evolution of language and creates curiosity about how our language develops over time. In turn, that creates an appreciation and awareness of linguistic diversity.


So how do I teach morphemes effectively?

Start early by beginning with basic prefixes, suffixes, and root words. 

  1. Engage students in linguistic and word-building activities such as word puzzles, word-building games, or creating word trees.

  2. Connect morpheme learning to real-world examples and in the text you are reading with students. Show students how morphemes influence word meanings and how they evolve.

  3. Encourage students to explore other languages than their native tongue. Compare morphemes across languages and help students make connections across languages.

  4. Be consistent and purposeful with your instruction. Plan routine ways for students to practice and apply what they are learning.


Final Thoughts

Teaching students about morphemes is all about empowering students to approach words with confidence while unraveling the nuances of our languages. As educators, parents, or mentors instilling this knowledge in students sets them up for limitless opportunities to express themselves with language as well as understand others around them.


  Hegland, Sue Scibetta. Beneath the Surface of Words: What English Spelling Reveals and Why it Matters. Learning About Spelling, Sioux Falls, SD. 2021


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