Select one or more key words. Key words should contain multiple morphemes (prefixes, roots, and/or suffixes), and should be fairly easy to divide into recognizable morphemes. It can be effective to select words that appear in a class text, or that relate to the class content. Make sure you know the morphemes in the words ahead of time—use a tool like Online Etymology Dictionary (www.etymonline.com) as needed.
Prepare a model morpheme map. Write the key word in the center in a bubble. Around this center bubble, write each of its component morphemes in its own bubble, and connect these bubbles to the center bubble with lines (spokes). Next, find one or more other words containing each of the component morphemes, write these in their own bubbles around each of the morphemes, and connect them to the morphemes with lines. You can continue adding another layer of morphemes and then words for as long as you want.
Ensure that students will have access to the internet for this activity. A paper dictionary can also work, but is much more cumbersome and challenging for many students.
Gather large blank pieces of paper (like chart paper) and markers, or prepare to use a tablet app that allows students to create concept maps freely.
The teacher reviews what a morpheme is, and the basic types (prefixes, roots, suffixes). The teacher leads a discussion about the value of morphological analysis.
Teacher displays model morpheme map, and explains the task. Class discusses how and why this task might be valuable.
You will want to make sure the same map uses a different word from the word(s) that students will be mapping.
Students prepare to work alone or in groups, using either chart paper/markers or a tablet app. Teacher gives each group one or more key words.
You can easily differentiate the difficulty of this activity by giving students words of differing levels of complexity. You can also help struggling students by dividing the original word into morphemes for them.
Students write the key word in a bubble in the center of the page. Students divide the word into morphemes.
Students write each of the component morphemes in its own bubble around the original word, and connect these bubbles to the original word with lines. Students look up the meaning of each of these morphemes, and write it in each bubble in a smaller font.
Students find two to five other words that contain each of the component morphemes. They write each of these words around each of the morphemes, and connect each word to the appropriate morpheme(s) with a line. Students briefly write the meaning of each
Optional: Students can continue with this process for additional layers, making increasingly complex maps with levels of morphemes and words. The next step would be to identify the component morphemes in each of the new words, and map those.
This can also be an effective whole-class activity on a giant sheet of paper or an app, making a huge morpheme map and delegating different students or groups or students to research particular morphemes and words as the work continues.
Students respond to questions including:
- How can knowing about morphemes help you to understand the meaning of a word?
- How can knowing about morphemes help you to spell or read a word?
- How could it be helpful for you to think about how words are connected to each other?
- How could this activity be useful in a science class?