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Are You Happy or Unhappy? Prefixes Make a Difference!

By Patricia Gable

At an early age, students need to learn how to decode an unknown word while reading. A good skill to acquire is how to find the “root” or “base” word first, which makes the word easier to figure out.


Grade 2 Prefixes Lesson Plan 

Determine the meaning of the new word formed when a known prefix is added to a known word (e.g., happy/unhappy, tell/retell) LA2-L-4-B.

Materials & Preparation

  • Book- The Magic of Language: Prefixes and Suffixes by Ann Heinrichs
  • Collection of books with a variety of reading levels both fiction and nonfiction
  • Downloadable worksheet, one copy for each student

Write the below conversation ahead of time on the board for students to see.

“Dan, did you misplace your ice skates?” asked Mother. “It will be impossible for you to go skating.”

“That’s nonsense!” said Dan. “The skates did not disappear. They are under my bed!”


Read pages 4-14 in the book The Magic of Language: Prefixes and Suffixes, which introduces the meaning of, prefixes and gives a multitude of examples.

Write some of the common prefixes and talk about what they mean:

dis- not, opposite (disagree, disagree, distrust)

im- not, without (impossible, improper)

in- not, without (inaction, invisible)

pre- before (prefix, preview)

re- again, back (reappear, review, return)

un- against, not (unequal, undo, unusual, unkind)

de- from, down (declaw, decrease)

ex- out of, away from (exhale, exchange)

Use the above conversation that you have written and ask the children to find the words with prefixes. Underline the base or root word and note how it changes the meaning

(misplace, impossible, nonsense, disappear).


Place students in teams of two. Each team has a paper and pencil. The assignment is for each team to use books in the classroom to find a list of at least five words with prefixes. (You may want to choose books for each team that would be appropriate for their reading level.) The words must be written down and the base or root word should be underlined. Share with the class in 15 minutes.

Assessment or Homework

Each student must complete the provided downloadable worksheet. (click the link to download)


Write a root word on one index card and a prefix on another. Do this with 10 words. Use the cards to play a memory game or “find your matching partner” game. Focus on prefixes im, un, in, dis since they have similar meanings.