Common Prefixes Spelling Patterns


Students who use rote memorization to spell and read are at a severe disadvantage. Knowing  spelling rules and patterns will allow them to decode and build words of greater complexity, making them more successful. Starting with basic spelling rules and patterns will create a foundation for strong writing, spelling, and reading skills.  This particular sort is a gateway sort to further study of roots, prefixes, and suffixes, and their roles in language.

 Common Prefixes Spelling Patterns Lesson Plan Includes:

  • Full Teacher Guidelines with Creative Teaching Ideas
  • Instructional Content Pages about Common Prefixes Spelling Patterns
  • Hands-on homework activities giving students plenty of practice on Common Prefixes Spelling Patterns
  • Answer Keys
  • Common Core State Standards
  • Many Additional Links and Resources
  • Built for Grades 3-4 but can be adapted for other grade levels.

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The lesson introduces students to three common prefixes, un-, pre-, and mis-. Learning these patterns and how they work will help your students develop their reading, writing and spelling skills. The lesson may be used in conjunction with several other spelling lessons!

Sample Classroom Procedure / Teacher Instruction: 

  1. Explain to students that they are going to get a list of words to cut out and sort. They are going to look for patterns and sort the words into groups that fit the patterns.
  2. Distribute TWO copies of the spelling sort for each student. Instruct them to cut out only one copy.
  3. Students work independently to try to read the words and sort them into patterns. It is all right if students do not successfully sort them, this is an independent attempt to see if they recognize patterns.
  4. Walk through the classroom and see how students have sorted. Ask questions to students to build understanding, such as “When you look at these words, what do they have in common?” “What do you notice about these words?” “How are these words alike/different?”
  5. Call students together after sorting independently. Ask what patterns they noticed. The students should have identified patterns of prefixes (beginnings of words). There are words beginning with un-, pre-, and mis-. Discuss how these word beginnings are called prefixes. They have specific meanings. Placing a prefix in front of a word can change the meaning of the base word. For example “fair” means something is equal and just. “Unfair” means something is not just or equal. Do this with the words place and misplace, school and preschool. Discuss the meanings of the prefixes. Un as a prefix means the opposite or against. “Mis-” means wrong or incorrect. Pre means before.
  6. As a group, create an anchor chart of the sort in the three columns. Write the spelling sort rules underneath, “In this sort, prefixes are added to base words to change the meaning of the base word. For example, spell and mispell. ”
  7. Have students write the correct sort that you completed as a class in their spelling notebooks.
  8. Introduce the activity sheet where the students will use dictionaries to create a prefix tree.
  9. Assign homework page- students take home the second sheet of words, cut them out at home, and sort them into the columns. They practice writing the rule at the bottom. Students should practice sorting words EACH NIGHT for several days. They may use writing sorts, sorting in the grid, speed sorts, play taboo and write sentences/definition at home with family members. Only one formal homework assignment is given here, but daily sorting and practice is encouraged, either at home or as part of your language arts center time.
  10. Students complete the practice sheet independently. They may work in partners or groups to support each other, but they should each complete an individual sheet. Students will use a dictionary to complete a word exploration, where they find new words, not in their sort, and use the dictionary to create definitions and sentences using the prefixes in this week’s sort.

Common Core State Standards:


Class Sessions (45 minutes): At least 2 class sessions

Additional Resources: 

Many more teaching resources in Download!

Want more language arts resources? Check out our other Language Arts Lesson Plans!

Additional information

Grade Level

3rd Grade, 4th Grade


Language Arts

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Marroquin Heather


This is an amazing lesson plan. It is engaging and intelligent. My Child really understood easily Affixes and I appreciate your website.