Lesson: Root Relay Game

Explicit Support & Scaffolding for English Language Learners:

This activity supports students in learning the structure of word parts. English Learners are more successful in acquiring competency in English when attention is given to vocabulary development, cognates, morphology, syntax as well as depth of meaning.

This activity specifically focuses on word meaning and morphology.


Students engage in an activity to learn about the structure or morphology of words. Students can play the game with a focus on:

  • Semantics – Word meaning (Antonyms and synonyms)
  • Morphology – Word structure including roots and affixes: prefixes & suffixes

Common Core Standards


  1. The teacher must pre-select the vocabulary words from the Word Bank Lists of Words.
  2. Card stock or sentence strips
  3. A large, open space such as an outdoor playground or an indoor gymnasium.

Brief Description:

Students engage in Root Relay in order to practice working with word parts and/or word meanings. This game is used to help students become more familiar with the meanings of different affixes (word parts) and how affixes fit together to create new words. This game helps students practice making the words from the Word Sort.


Teaching Tips

  • The teacher can make the cards or have students make them to increase their participation and ownership in the game.
  • It is necessary to have more than one of the same prefix in the pile. For instance, it is best to have three or four “un” prefixes or three “-ment” suffixes. It makes the game work more effectively.
  1. This game is best played in a large, open space such as an outdoor playground or an indoor gymnasium. The game takes approximately 20 minutes to play.
  2. Students work in teams of 3 students. The student teams will be racing against the other teams.
  3. The teacher will lay out 3 piles of word parts across the room or playground from where students are standing. One pile contains prefixes, the second pile contains root words, and the third pile contains suffixes.
  4. The first person in each team runs and chooses a prefix, suffix, or a root word. They race back with this one card to their team.
  5. As soon as they return, the next student races to the piles and selects a different morphological part of a word. For example, if the first person selected a prefix, then the next person will select a root word.
  6. Finally, the third person races to the piles and selects the last part of the word.
  7. Now the team must make a word and raise their hand to signal the teacher. If the first person selected a “un”, the second person selected a “reach”, and the third person selects “able”, the team would tell the teacher the word and talk about its meaning.
  8. If the word is not a dictionary word, the teacher could ask students what it might mean given the meanings of the prefix and suffix. For example, if the team had selected “agree”, “pre”, and “-ment”, the students might make the word “preagreement”. Given the meaning of the affixes with:
  • “pre” meaning “before”
  • “-ment” meaning “condition or result”

the word “preagreement” could mean “before we agree on the results”.

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