Nouns, Verbs, Adjectives and Their Suffixes

Overview: 

This lesson allows students to explore the categories noun, verb, and adjective by attaching and detaching suffixes. They will see that certain suffixes attach to certain kinds of words, and that they make use of that knowledge unconsciously all the time. They will also discover some quick tests to identify parts of speech.

Grade Level: 
Grades 3-5
Grades 6-8
Grades 9-12
Class Time Needed: 
Under 30 minutes
Lesson Plan: 

Have students come up with at least three words each (working in groups) using each of the following suffixes. Then have them determine the part of speech of the root (the word before the suffix attaches) and the resulting word.

-ance (as in avoidance)
-ity (as in fluidity)
-ness (as in kindness)
-en (as in sweeten)
-ify (as in clarify)
-ion (as in invention)
-ive (as in active)
-ize (as in crystallize)
-ful (as in truthful)
-able (as in fixable)
-al (as in fictional)
-ish (as in childish)
-er (as in speaker)

One thing to be gained from this exploration is that we attach suffixes appropriately to the right kind of stem, thus revealing our unconscious knowledge of these categories. It's important to emphasize that we already know all of this. A second thing to take away is what those category labels are: nouns, verbs, and adjectives.

They will come up with lots of good words, but if they're having a hard time coming up with examples on the fly of words with the various suffixes, you can use some search tool like Word Searcher which will find all words with ity, for example, at the end. Then the task will be to discover which of those actually have a suffix and which don't (words like city) or http://www.neilramsden.co.uk/spelling/searcher/

Ultimately, they should discover this:

-ance attaches to verbs to make nouns
-ity attaches to adjectives to make nouns
-ness attaches to adjectives to make nouns
-en attaches to verbs to make adjectives
-ify attaches to adjectives to make verbs
-(t/s)ion attaches to verbs to make nouns
-ive attaches to verbs to make adjectives
-ize attaches to nouns to make verbs
-ful attaches to nouns to make adjectives
-able attaches to verbs to make adjectives
-al attaches to nouns to make adjectives
-ish attaches to nouns to make adjectives
-er attaches to verbs to make nouns

Some things to be prepared for:
- Students may come up with examples that are not stand-alone words in English, but are bound roots; that is, they must attach to another affix. Examples: hilarity, identity.
- They might come up with examples of words with more than one suffix: unavoidability.
- They will have to deal with spelling changes, which can sometimes obscure the root word: futurity, festivity.
- They might wonder why certain suffixes attach rather than others. Why, for example, are there these three suffixes which all attach to nouns to make adjectives: -ful , -able, -al, -ish ? (And the answer to this is not straightforward. It has to do with phonological patterns, stress patterns, language of origin, among other factors.
- They might not get the part of speech label right. Instead of giving it to them, have them use the word in a sentence to get some other clues about how it's functioning. See some quick tests below.

Quick Tests for Adjectives: occur with seems, follow very.

Adjective Frame: She seems _________.
The [noun] is very ________.

If it works, it's an adjective!

Quick Tests for Nouns: can take a determiner, can be pluralized

Noun Frame: Can take a determiner: the _______
Can be pluralized _____s

Quick Test for Verbs: can be tensed

Verb Frame: She ______ed yesterday.