Teaching Suffixes To Elementary Grades ( Bonus Lesson With Activities)

By Becky F

A suffix is a single letter or a combination of letters affixed to the end of a root or stem word that changes its meaning. In English, suffixes can alter a word to a different part of speech or denote plurals, for example. But how and when should we start teaching suffixes to our students?

When teaching suffixes, we build on informal, existing knowledge that children already have. We usually start teaching simple suffixes that denote plurals (-s) and past tense verbs (-ed). Then, as students learn about more complicated language structures, we introduce other suffix morphemes.

As teachers, we need to show students the correct way of adding a suffix to a word, which includes spelling rules and avoiding rogue apostrophes – especially in the case of plurals. So let's look at the various suffixes, how they can change the meanings of words, and how to use them properly.

Teaching The Different Types Of Suffixes

We can start teaching suffixes in elementary school, as many children use them in spoken English before they have even learned to write. The most common suffixes are -s, -ed, -ing, -er, and -est, as they are part of everyday speech.

Depending on the suffix, the root word may have to change a little bit. For example, the last consonant might need to be doubled up, or a letter might need to be omitted. Let's look at some of the suffixes students will learn in junior school.

Suffixes -s and -es

Most of the time, when you want to pluralize a noun, you add an -s. However, if the noun you wish to pluralize ends with -ch, -s, -sh, -x, or -z, you must add an -es suffix.

Examples of Suffixes for Pluralization













Suffix -ed

Adding the suffix -ed to a verb changes the verb into a past tense verb. In most cases, you can add -ed, but there are a few spelling exceptions.

  • If there is a short vowel sound before the last consonant, double the consonant and then add -ed.
  • If the word ends in -e, add -d.
  • If the word ends in -y, omit the -y and add -ied instead.

Examples of Past Tense -ed Suffixes


Words with a short vowel and consonant -ed

Words ending with -e

Words ending in -y

laugh – laughed

jog – jogged

hype – hyped

worry – worried

fill – filled

grab – grabbed

tease – teased

carry – carried

Examples of Past Tense -ed Suffixes


Words with a short vowel and consonant -ed

Words ending with -e

Words ending in -y

laugh – laughed

jog – jogged

hype – hyped

worry – worried

fill – filled

grab – grabbed

tease – teased

carry – carried

Suffix -ing

When we add -ing to a verb, we turn it into an ongoing verb. The spelling rules for adding -ing are the following:

  • If a word ends in a silent "e," drop the –e and add -ing.
  • For words with a short vowel and consonant at the end (except words ending with -x and -w), double the consonant and add -ing.
  • For most other words, add -ing.

Examples of -ing Suffixes


Words with short vowel and consonant - ing

Words with "silent -e" -ing

go – going

lag – lagging

pose – posing

buy – buying

chop – chopping

retire – retiring

sail – sailing

box – boxing

gape – gaping

leap – leaping

row – rowing

weave – weaving

Suffix -er

When we add the suffix -er to a root word, it can do one of two things: it can change a verb to a noun, or it can be used for comparative adjectives.

Example of -er: Change a verb to a Noun

  • I teach junior school. I am a teacher. (Teach is a verb, but the -er suffix turns teach into a noun.)

Example of -er in Comparative Adjectives

  • John is tall. (John's height is not compared to anything.)
  • Fred is taller than John. (Even though John is tall, Fred is taller than him by comparison.)

Suffix -est

Continuing with degrees of comparison, adding -est to a root word will turn it into the most extreme comparison (superlative) of that adjective. Using the example above, consider Lucian is taller than Fred.

  • John is tall, but Fred is taller than him. However, Lucian is the tallest of the three boys.

Other Suffixes And How They Change The Meaning Of Words

Many other suffixes are used in English, each with its own spelling rules. As students progress through school, they will learn more about them and how to use them appropriately.

Below are examples of other suffixes and how they change the meanings of words in English.


How The Suffix Changes The Meaning Of A Word


-less means "without"

  • use – useless
  •  skin – skinless


-ful means "full of"

  • thought – thoughtful
  • color – colorful


-ly implies a characteristic (-ly can turn an adjective into an adverb.)

  • beautiful – beautifully
  • quick – quickly


-ish can turn nouns into adjectives or indicate a manner of something.

  • Someone from Britain is British.
  •  An adult who acts like a child can be called childish

What's Included In Suffixes Lesson's Powerpoint Slides for Teaching Elementary Students?

Teaching suffixes to students early in their English education will help them become better readers. It also helps the students to improve their reading comprehension skills.

This teaching resource is created for primary grades teachers. However, you can use it for the basic understanding of suffixes at any grade level.

Our lesson PowerPoint for Teaching Suffixes is a complete resource containing examples and classroom activities. You can use it as it is or create your lesson using our suffixes ppt, which is available for free download.

You can watch the lesson video here before downloading the slides.

Learning Objectives

Students should be able to:

  • Understand the meaning of Suffixes and root words
  • Recognize, blend and read words that end with er, or, ess, and ist

Learning Outcomes

By the end of the lesson, students will be able to:

  • Identify suffixes and their meanings
  • Demonstrate understanding by properly adding them to root words

Download ppt Slides For This Lesson

Editable Lesson Slides included

We hope that this lesson is helpful for you in teaching suffixes to your students. You can check our complete range of elementary grade English lessons here.

Related Posts

Subscribe now to get the latest updates!