#012: How to Target Affixes in Speech Therapy

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In this episode, I’m covering two different topics that have similar strategies for teaching: context clues and affixes.

As we talked about in the past few episodes, for students who struggle with vocabulary, it’s incredible to see the impact that just teaching some vocabulary can have on their comprehension.

So why target context clues?

There’s mixed evidence around this, but the theory is that by teaching context clues we’re metaphorically teaching students how to fish — we don’t want our students to have to depend on us to teach them new vocabulary words.

If they don’t have strategies to learn new words, then we’re in trouble.

But…there is not strong data to indicate that teaching a strategy instead of specific words broadly impacts reading comprehension, or that it helps them learn new words; our students really benefit from explicit teaching.

So it’s kind of a tricky — no one has the *best* answer here, but listen in to this episode to see where I’ve landed in my practice. 🤓

After chatting about context clues, I switch gears to affixes because there is some overlap — they involve a lot of similar strategies, as well as a bit more explicit instruction.

I love targeting affixes because you can get such a big bang for your speech therapy buck: there are four prefixes and four suffixes that account for almost all of the affixed words in the printed school English. Isn’t that wild?!

So by teaching eight affixes, we can make such a huge impact on our students’ vocabulary + comprehension.

But I don’t want to give everything away in the show notes…! Grab your beverage of choice (I’ll have an iced tea!), put your feet up, and listen in.

Key Takeaways

1. Strategies for Assessing and Teaching Context Clues
> Clue instruction
> Strategy instruction
> Closed procedure

2. Strategies for Assessing and Teaching Affixes
> Informal assessments
> Is a student is able to even identify prefixes and suffixes?
> Can the student identify the meaning of any given prefix or suffix?
> Can the student use the knowledge of the prefixes and suffixes to determine the meaning of those combined words or of that derivational word?
> Teach morphology in the context of rich, explicit vocabulary instruction
> Teach students to use morphology as a cognitive strategy with explicit steps
> Teach underlying morphological knowledge explicitly and in context
> Teach morphology in relation to cognates
> How the strategy for targeting affixes is similar to teaching context clues

Links Mentioned in the Podcast

> Affixes Assessment (SLP Now Member link)
> Book: Bringing Words to Life (Amazon affiliate)
> Site: ReadWorks
> Site: NewsELA
> Site: VocabGrabber
> Book: The Teaching Reading Sourcebook (Amazon affiliate)

Video Demonstration


Antonacci, P. A., & O’Callaghan, C. M. (2012). Essential strategies for teaching vocabulary. In Promoting Literacy Development (pp. 83–114).
Baumann, J. F., Edwards, E. C., Font, G., Tereshinski, C. A., Kame’enui, E. J., & Olejinik, S. (2002). Teaching morphemic and contextual analysis to fifth-grade students. Reading Research Quarterly, 37, 150–176.
Biemiller, A. (2004). Teaching vocabulary in the primary grades. In J. F. Baumann & E. J. Kame’enui (Eds.), Vocabulary instruction: Research to Practice (pp. 28–40). New York: Guilford.
Goerss, B. L., Beck, I. L., & McKeown, M. G. (1999). Increasing remedial students’ ability to derive word meaning from context. Reading Psychology, 20(2), 151-175.
Honig, B., Diamond, L., & Gutlohn, L. (2013). Teaching Reading Sourcebook: For Kindergarten Through Eighth Grade. Novata, CA: Arena Press.
Kieffer, M. J., & Lesaux, N. K. (2007). Breaking down words to build meaning: Morphology, vocabulary, and reading comprehension in the urban classroom. The Reading Teacher, 61(2), 134–144.
Nagy, W. E., & Anderson, R. C. (1984). How many words are there in printed school English? Reading Research Quarterly, 19, 304–330.
Wood, K. D., & Hedrick, W. B. (2006). Vocabulary instruction in middle and secondary content classrooms: Understandings and directions from research. In A. E. Farstrup & S. J. Samuels (Eds.), What research has to say about vocabulary instruction (pp.150–181).

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Hi there! I'm Marisha. I am a school-based SLP who is all about working smarter, not harder. I created the SLP Now Membership and love sharing tips and tricks to help you save time so you can focus on what matters most--your students AND yourself.

Reader Interactions


  1. Haley says

    Loved this episode– thank you! There were a couple of articles you referenced (one was by Gorse et al, 1999? – might have the spelling wrong) that I couldn’t find in the notes section. Do you mind linking them for us? Thanks for all you do!

    • Marisha says

      Thank you so much, Haley!

      Here’s the citation: Goerss, B. L., Beck, I. L., & McKeown, M. G. (1999). Increasing remedial students’ ability to derive word meaning from context. Reading Psychology, 20(2), 151-175.

  2. Brianna says

    I listened to the podcast and you mentioned there are 8 common affixes. Did you mention what these affixes were and I missed it or if you could let me know where you got the information from and I could look it up myself that would be great. Thanks!

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