Teaching Word Endings


dance dancing-words

Simple words to complex words with added  endings:

Some children have difficulty extending their reading from a simple word, to its more complex forms, such as adding -ing or -ed, changing tenses, and adding prefixes or suffixes.

  • Simply list the different forms one under the other, and “box” the core part of the word, so the child sees the connection, and then goes on to practice reading and using the different forms (dance, danced, dancing, dancer, dances, etc.).
  • Print some words on a piece of paper (for example: dance, run, dog, dancing, flap, dancer). Then write the “keyword” (dance) in large letters, and have the child circle the words that have that root word in them. Together, make up sentences that use the circled words (you may need to provide examples at first, but encourage your child to also try to make sentences using each circled word).
  • Use a single basic sentence (for example: I like to dance.) and then rewrite it using the other forms (I like dancing; I danced and liked it; I like that dancer; I like going to dances; etc.). Then have the child read each sentence; she will likely be able to easily recognize and read the form of the word by its context.
  • Write the base word on a piece of paper, with the root word slightly separated from the rest of the word (eg. start ed; laugh ing; teach er; un wrap etc.). Have your child read the word he knows, and then read the extra “chunk.” Then have him put them together.
  • You can also make lists words, categorized by their extra endings, and practice them together until your child becomes comfortable with reading the added word part from each list.

Note: You can do similar exercises with words that have prefixes such as re- or un- or de- added to them.

Tips for -ed endings:

When a child is learning to add the “-ed” ending to a word to make it past tense, it is important to point out that the ending sound can be “ed” or “d” or “t.” This is something that confuses many children. What can you do?

  • Create a sheet with 3 columns. Put each of the 3 “sounds” at the top of a separate column, and then as your child reads or listens, have her write down the “-ed” words she comes across that have each sound. After there are at least half a dozen words in each list, you can together compare the words in each column, and come up with a “rule” for each set.
  • While it is fine to “teach rules” about spelling, or any other literacy skill, if the child is involved in “figuring out the rule,” she will actually learn and remember it even better. (Of course, being English, not all words will follow the rule…).
  • Some examples of -ed words with different sounds:
    • ed: started, ended, wanted, hunted (words that end with the hard consonant sounds of d/t–the same sounds as the -ed ending makes)
    • t: hopped, jumped, laughed, wished (“short vowel” words)
    • d: raised, peered, sailed (“long vowel words”)
    • Oh! You may also wish to make a fourth column for all those “oddball” past tense words: wrote, read, sang, etc.

-ing or -ong word endings:

Children are often taught the “ing” word ending early on, because it is so useful, but then they have difficulty when the “ong” ending is introduced. Fortunately, there are some great “ing/ong” combinations that children find very amusing, and really help them see the difference between the two sounds:

  • sing-song, ding-dong, King-Kong, ping-pong
  • fun “ong” words like “Hong Kong”
  • common words like “strong, wrong, and long.” Children can create very amusing sentences or poems using these words!

I hope these tips have been helpful. Do you have other tips for teaching word endings? Please feel free to add them in the comments below. Thank you!


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