Suffix Poems: Making Word Formation Memorable

The Word Formation task from the Use of English section in exams like CAE and FCE strikes fear (or boredom) into the hearts of students. While there is a finite list of English prefixes (malformed) and suffixes (formation), it’s an incredibly long one. Also confusing are combined forms with an apparent affix which is intrinsic and indivisible from the containing word (Why can we have consume, but not sumeCon is not a prefix here, or is it? eh?) Plus affixes may be different in the L1 (if in doubt do NOT stick –cion on the end!). Then there are the spelling rules, grrrr.

Prefixes & suffixes help denote word class and so textbook activities generally involve converting word class from a root…

Consider > considerate / inconsiderate (adj) > consideration (n) >considerately (adv) etc

and/or grouping prefixes/suffixes by word class, under some theme e.g. personality.

-ate (adj) = considerate / compassionate / affectionate / passionate etc

But hang on! -ate can also denote a VERB (operate, intimidate etc). Argh, kill me now.

The best we can do to help learners is expose them to the language,  make it meaningful, give them repeated practice, and advise them to go on instinct if in doubt. Any genius tips also welcome.

Suffixes are often what give words their rhyming quality, repetition and rhyme lend themselves to poetry, so I had a go at combining all this with my advanced teens. Here’s the textbook activity…

Screen Shot 2016-03-03 at 15.59.25

With that out of the way…

  1. The class create simple gapfills with the words on colourful paper strips depending on word class a bit like this…glorify

Create a mound,  repeating each word several times. e.g. 3 x glorify.

2. Using a dictionary, students get busy grabbing strips from the pile then filling in the gaps however they like e.g. Truth is evasive.

3. Stick them all back in a pile and mix it up. Group students into pairs/3s. I gave each pair a word class (e.g. adverbs). They then grab paper strips from the central pile according to their category (I’m sure it’d work as a free-for-all too).

4. Pairs organise, order, adapt, change, and swap their chosen strips into some semblance of a poem (they don’t need to use them all). Get them thinking about rhyme, and meaning, creating some kind of narrative behind their choices, discussing the meanings of the words in the process. Stick them down when ready to make a mini-poster. There are examples of suffix poems here in case but ours developed quite organically without.

5. After a quick practice to drill pron, sts recite their poems to the class. The class interpret the poems and judge their effectiveness. Poets defend their choices.

Varying results but this was my favourite (I didn’t manage to get a photo)…


Glorify yourself,

Electrify the night,

Glorify yourself,

Electrify your mind.

A joyful tribute to self-confidence and self-improvement. Or something like that.

PS To get them thinking about poetry and wordclass I started the lesson with the first verse of Lewis Carroll’s The Jabberwocky and got leaners to identifying the parts of speech  (Brillig/slithy = adj, tothes = n, gire/gymble = v) through the syntax.

Anyone else out there got a winning poetry or word formation practice idea? Please share!


2 thoughts on “Suffix Poems: Making Word Formation Memorable

    1. Glad you might find it useful, I’d love to see some pics and examples of what they come up with! Let me know how it goes.


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