4th Grade - Meaning Of Words, Part 2

Meaning of words, part 2
Use knowledge of root words to determine the meaning of unknown words within a passage.
The ability to break words into parts: prefixes (the first part), roots (the main part), and suffixes (the last part). The ability to understand etymology (study of word part meanings) of words, especially Latin roots. Understanding how to use a dictionary and other resources as well as reading strategies to define words in context.

Sample Problems


What strategies (ways to learn) can we use to define words in context? (e.g. apposition, context clues, word structure)


What is etymology? (the study of the origin and development of words)


What parts can words be broken into? (prefixes, root words, suffixes)


What are some common roots? (e.g. geo, bio, ped, equ)


What are cognates? (similar words or word parts)

Learning Tips



root ave children construct Word Trees, which include the root word written on the “roots,” the meaning on the “trunk,” and branches exemplifying several related words.


Graphic organizers, such as a Bubble Map, Tree Map or other brainstorming tool, can be used to exhibit the Word Families, which also distinguishes between parts of speech (e.g. nouns, adjectives, adverbs, etc.), parts of words (suffix, root, prefix), and types of roots (whole word, part of word, those that change spelling when inserted in words, etc.).


Inherent in studying etymology (the origin of words) is the understanding of parts of speech. Have the child make flashcards of common words (e.g. petal, thermometer [common nouns]; feet, pedals [plural nouns]; Kleenex, Hoover [proper nouns]; sequence, eject [verbs]; actual, incredible [adjectives]; descriptively, impressively [adverbs]) – even pictures can be added . Include many, varied parts of speech, and write these on the back (adjective, common noun, plural noun, proper noun, adverb, etc.). Quiz each other to practice!


Make two circles with string. Use note cards (e.g. 3x5” index cards) or small pieces of paper to write common prefixes – beginning parts of words (e.g. pre-, un-, non-, in-, ex-, di-, de-, extra-, hyper-, hypo-, mega-, poly-, etc.) and suffixes (-le, -be, -able, -ment, -scope, -logy, -ing, -mania, -ity, -ly, -ness, -er, -ed, -or, -es, -ight, -tion, etc.) but write them without the dashes (-). The learner should mix up the cards and practice sorting them into the two circles.


Play “Words Within Words.” Think of large words, or use a dictionary if necessary. Some examples: supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, spatially, intergalactic, undulating, predisposition, etc.

Write a chosen word at the top of two pieces of paper. The challenge is to rearrange the letters in the large word to make smaller words. (e.g. for spatially spatial, pat, spat, tap, taps, lap, laps, etc.)

Have a race to see who can think of the most words. 1 point per letter, so larger words are worth more! If you thought of the same words, you can cancel each other’s out or each person receives the same points. Whoever earns the most points wins!

Online Resources

Extra Help Problems


What is a prefix? (the first or beginning part of a word)


What is a suffix? (the end or last part of a word)


What is a root word? (the basic meaningful beginning part of a word that is left after affixes are removed)


What root words have meanings with similar sounds (cognates)? (e.g. stat and stay; mov and move; simil and same


What does the root bi mean? (2; two)


What words contain the root bi and have two of something? (bicycle – 2 wheels; bipartisan – 2 parties; biannual – twice a year, etc.)


What does the root tri mean? (3; three)


What words contain the root tri and have three of something? (tricycle – 3 wheels; triceratops – 3 horns; triathlon – a 3-part sport event, etc.)


What does the root quad mean? (4; four)


What words contain the root quad and have four of something? (quad – 4 wheels; quadrilateral – 4 sides, 4 corners; quadruplets – 4 siblings, etc.)


What does the root quint mean? (5; five)


What words contain the root quad and have four of something? (quint – 5 cards; quintet – 5 singers; quintuplets – 5 siblings, etc.)


Do root words always appear in words with the exact same spelling? (no)


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