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Lesson Plan

Flip-a-Chip: Examining Affixes and Roots to Build Vocabulary

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Flip-a-Chip: Examining Affixes and Roots to Build Vocabulary

Grades 6 – 8
Lesson Plan Type Recurring Lesson
Estimated Time One or two 45-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Lee Mountain

Houston, Texas


International Literacy Association


Student Objectives

Instruction & Activities


Student Assessment/Reflections



Students will

  • Examine the meanings of affixes and roots to build vocabulary

  • Mix and match four meaningful word parts to make four words

  • Write a paragraph leaving blanks for the four words and including context clues to help their classmates fill in the blanks

  • Revise their paragraphs based on feedback from their peers

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Instruction & Activities

Note: Depending on your students' grade level and abilities, you may need to conduct a preliminary lesson on affixes and roots as meaningful parts of words. However, most students in grades 6-8 have already encountered morphemic analysis in their reading, vocabulary, and spelling programs.

1. Introduce Flip-a-Chip to your students by saying, "Let me show you how you can start with four syllables and flip these chips to make four words." Start flipping the chips, and write each word you make on the board. Hand the chips to a student and say, "No matter how you flip these chips, you will make a word. Try it." Let students keep trying until they flip all four words: produce, provoke, reduce, and revoke.

2. Next, encourage students to talk about the meanings of the four words. Discuss the word elements as meaningful chunks. Ask students to think of other words that they know that have the same affix or root. What do these other words mean? Can words they know help them figure out the meanings of these new words? Students can also use Dictionary.com or a print copy of the dictionary to look up the definitions of the four words. [Note: Be sure students select the correct part of speech for a word like produce when they study the definition. In this case, produce is being used as a verb.]

3. Show students the fill-in-the-blanks paragraph, in which the built-in context clues can give students a conceptual network for the words. Tell students, "The words you flipped can fit in this paragraph. Figure out from the context where each word belongs."
Ms. Jones was angry. She said, "My students _____ me when they are tardy. They _____ one excuse after another. I want to ____ the number of tardies, so I'll ____ the privileges of any student who is late."
4. Have students read the paragraph aloud after placing the words in the right blanks. Also have them explain their thought process for placing the words in the paragraph. How does the context of the sentence (i.e., the semantic and syntactic cues) call for one word and not another?
Ms. Jones was angry. She said, "My students provoke me when they are tardy. They produce one excuse after another. I want to reduce the number of tardies, so I'll revoke the privileges of any student who is late."
5. Go through a few more examples together in class or have students work in pairs using the online version of Flip-a-Chip. Students will see how different affixes and roots can be combined to make words and then placed into a context-rich paragraph. They should print their work after each example to check whether they placed the words in the paragraph correctly.

6. Next, have students work in pairs to create their own Flip-a-Chip packets, to include a set of chips and a paragraph with fill-in-the-blanks. You might consider modeling the process for creating a Flip-a-Chip packet or having the class create one together before having students work on this activity in pairs.
  • Give each pair of students a marker or pen, two white poker chips, and a plastic bag.

  • Instruct students to print four syllables on the chips that can be combined to make four words. When students start working in pairs, caution them about spelling. For example, they should not use words like rude and easy on Chip 1 if they mean to put the suffixes er and est on Chip 2. Flip-a-Chip packets cannot include words that drop a final e or change a final y to an i before adding a suffix. The word parts on Chips 1 and 2 must mix-match into four correctly spelled words.

  • Students should be encouraged to access Dictionary.com or a print copy of the dictionary to look up the definitions of the four words they decide to use.

  • Then have students type paragraphs adding blanks for the four words and making sure to include context clues that will help others know where the words belong. Circulate the room while students are working to assist them in developing their paragraphs or to point out how to strengthen their context clues, especially for blanks where two of the words would fit.

  • When finished, have each pair place their materials in a small plastic bag and label the bag with their names.
7. Ask students to trade their packets with another pair of students to see if their classmates can figure out how the words fit in the paragraph.

8. Students can then meet with the pair of students that tried their Flip-a-Chip packet and revise their paragraph if additional context clues were needed to place the words correctly.

9. Keep the student-created Flip-a-Chip packets in an area of the classroom and encourage students to try some of the others when they have time. Students can share their feedback with the original authors of the packet or create a dueling paragraph to add to the packet (i.e., another paragraph that uses the same four words).

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  • Students can make additional Flip-a-Chip packets during subsequent lessons. You may want to suggest such combinations as verbs with inflectional endings (blast and pound with ed and ing), adjectives with suffixes (soft and rich with er and est), nouns with plural and possessive endings (boy and cat with s and 's) and prefixes and roots (im and sup with press and pose).

  • Encourage students to access Common Word Roots to find word parts that they can use when developing their own Flip-a-Chip packets.

  • Incorporate the Flip-a-Chip activity into other lessons throughout the school year by focusing on specific affixes and roots for study. Have students compile a list of all of the prefixes, roots, and suffixes that they learn. By the end of the year, students will have a comprehensive list of the various word parts and a good understanding of vocabulary words that include those word parts.

  • For other engaging vocabulary puzzles (e.g., crosswords, matching, fill-in-the-blanks), have students access Vocabulary University.

  • Another vocabulary website, Word Images: Index, presents students with pictures, definitions, and quizzes. For example, the word kleptomania is shown with a picture of a kleptomaniac in action, surreptitiously stuffing a pair of shoes into her pocketbook.

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Assessment is built into the Flip-a-Chip activity. Students will need to be able to correctly put together four words, have a clear understanding of the words, and then be able to correctly use or place the words in a paragraph. Peer assessment is a powerful component in this lesson as students are compelled to revise their paragraphs to ensure that their peers can correctly place the four words in the blanks.

For an end-of-semester assessment, have students list all of the prefixes, roots, and suffixes used in their Flip-a-Chip packets. They can then match these word parts with their meanings. As students reflect on the meanings of the word parts, have them also reflect on how they were able to construct the meanings of new words by understanding the meanings of various affixes and roots.

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