Just Playing with Words

The words <plays, played, player, playing, playful> are composed of bases and suffixes: <-s, -ed, -er, -ing, -ful> are suffixes. <Playmate, playlist, playground, play-date> are compound words  composed of two bases.

Worried about students not having strong or rich vocabulary?Understanding and using morphology – bases and affixes – can provide the answer you need to teach the connections that exist among words and reinforce vocabulary learning.

From the simple everyday word ‘play’ see how many words you can generate:  <play, plays, played, playing, player, players, playful, playfully, replay, replays, replayed, playlist, playground, playmate, play-date>.

You can discuss parts of speech: verbs, nouns, adjective, adverbs, etc; Verb tenses: present, past, and continuous; nouns: singular and plural; and compound words.

Usage: the words play and plays can be both verbs or nouns depending on context: how they are used in sentences. These are some of the rich discussions that can take place in either a small or large group setting: at home or at school. Playful is an adjective, but the suffix <-ly> turns it into an adverb <playfully>. You could play some games by using the words in sentences and observing how the words’ parts of speech change when their positions in the sentences (word order) change. Use ‘play‘ as a verb in a sentence and then use it as a noun. In this way, your students (or children) can learn a very valuable lesson about ‘parts of speech’. In English a word’s part of speech is entirely dependent on how the word is used in a sentence.

Notice how movable the adverb is: you can move the adverb around in sentences without dramatically changing the meaning of the sentences: the position of the adverb just changes the words that are emphasized.

She playfully kicked the ball around the room.

She kicked the ball playfully around the room.

She kicked the ball around the room playfully.

Playfully she kicked the ball around the room.

You will be amazed at the lessons you can learn when you simply play around with words. Just try it!

2 thoughts on “Just Playing with Words

Add yours

  1. Thank goodness I’ve discovered your blog! I’ve just completed a two day workshop with Lyn Anderson and Ann Whiting and I’m caught in their ‘spell of words’.
    I have so much still to learn but I feel like a light has gone on and the missing piece to the puzzle has been revealed.
    I’m excited about the possibilities and how I can improve outcomes for my students. Thank you for your blog. It’s so affirming.


    1. Hi Helen!

      I’m glad you’ve found my blog. My aim is to help others like you realize that we can help our students do better when the light comes on for us. When I first started learning about the English orthography my constant outcry was “Why didn’t somebody tell me this before?”

      I know about Lyn Anderson and Ann Whiting. Are you in Australia then?
      Please, point others to my blog and let’s spread the message.
      Thanks for your comments!


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