Making Word Parts a Fun Part of Middle School ELA


Teaching Word Parts is a key to increasing Middle School students reading comprehension.  Find out how to make it FUN with my top 3 strategies!

Lately, all the rage has been on the Science of Reading. In Middle School, this means a focus on word parts - prefixes, suffixes, root words, and base words.  These are the critical components to making reading comprehension gains with our students, but let's be real - this is not the most exciting stuff.  I can feel the disdain from the students all the way over here.

So, I set out to find ways to make learning word parts FUN, and here are my Top 3 strategies:

1.  Make Learning Word Parts Fun with a Class Competition

If you don't already use Teams in your classroom like me, then you'll need to set up about 8 teams within each class period.  That should be about 3 members per team.  You can assign teams based on your knowledge of the students or you can have them choose their own teams.

Next, I have the teams choose names and place them on a tournament bracket like this:

Make Fluency Fridays the new thing in your Middle School class to increase reading comprehension and make it FUN!

I give each team a list of the morphemes of the week.  I have various practices with these word parts throughout the week.  Things like puzzles, word-building games, BINGO, and sorting games.

Then on Friday,  two teams compete in game show fashion.  I call it "Fluency Friday".  To keep the rest of the Teams engaged and involved while they are not competing, I offer them the opportunity to answer missed questions for bonus points for their team!

The winners advance and you continue to have competitions every Friday until you have a grand champ.  Using the survey that I give at the beginning of every year to determine what students like to work for, I award the Grand Champs with the most coveted prize!  This year, that prize was a special shout-out from our very gregarious Principal.

2.  Make Learning Word Parts Fun with a Class vs. Class Competition

With this strategy, each of my classes is a team competing against my other classes. So the first period is competing against 2nd period, 3rd period, and so on.  

We still compete on Fridays but this time, we use a full-class competition where the goal is to not miss a single question!  This is because we count how many right answers as points for the Leaderboard!

Middle School students love a competition so use it to your advantage when teaching mundane topics like word parts!

To conduct the competition on Fluency Fridays, this is what I do:

After being given a few minutes to review, everyone clears their desks.  Then, I present a question to each student on an index card (or just a piece of paper).  Then we go "around the world" to answer the questions.  If someone misses a question, I choose one person to get back 1/2 a point for the team.  I only allow each student just one "save" per game so that the same person doesn't get all the "saves". Otherwise, the students would rely upon just that one person to do all the work.  ;)  We keep going until every student in the room has had a try at a question.

3.  Make Learning Word Parts Fun with an Individual Competition

With this option, students compete against themselves.  Each Friday, they get to show what they know.  For each word part that they can correctly apply to a game, they earn a point.  Each of those points is tracked on some kind of visual to earn a personal prize.

I have used this strategy in other situations before.  Once, my PLC did an individual competition with writing essays.  Every time a student successfully completed a part of the essay writing process, they earned a puzzle piece. At the end of our event, whatever their puzzle pieces showed was what they earned.  At that time, they could earn a "mud pie" (pudding cup) with different mix-ins.  You can read more about that by clicking here.

I've also had popcorn party puzzles, race tracks,  and ice cream sundaes.  Each time they earn a point, their race car moves down the track or they earn another part of a sundae.  The visual is definitely a key to this strategy's success.

Tracking progress and success with word parts is fun when you use visuals like these!

So that's it!  These are my top 3 strategies for making word parts a fun part of any Middle School ELA class.  You know your students best, so choose the one that works for you!

Stay tuned!  There will be more posts about this topic with more ideas for word parts practice coming soon!

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3 Strategies For Making Word Parts FUN in Middle School