Morphology: A Critical Component In Reading Development

Caribbean starfish over sand beachLearning to read is a complex process that requires children to perform multiple mental tasks simultaneously. One critical component of the reading process is morphological awareness. A morpheme is the smallest meaningful unit of language. For example, in is a morpheme and the word jumping has two morphemes, .

In their article “Morphological Awareness Intervention for Students Who Struggle with Language and Literacy,” Julie A. Wolter and Ginger Collins examine the connection between reading performance and morphological interventions. The authors demonstrate that for students to be able to learn to read and comprehend text, they need to have an explicit awareness of morphological processes. That is, students need to be aware of word parts like base words, prefixes, and suffixes and have direct knowledge of their meaning. There is a direct link between morphological awareness and an increased ability to read and write proficiently.

The connect between morphological understanding, and reading skills were even more apparent in students with dyslexia and other specific learning disabilities. Students who received direct and explicit interventions related to morphological awareness had better reading skills and were more likely to be proficient readers. Direct morphological instruction has also been linked to an increased sight word reading speed as well as increased decoding abilities, both of which lead to increased reading fluency and comprehension.

dictionary-390055__340, CC0_pixabayIf a child struggles to understand and manipulate morphemes, their reading will become labored, and comprehension will suffer, especially as they get older and the complexity of the texts they are reading increases. It is imperative that any intervention program has an explicit morphology component introduced in the initial lesson to help struggling readers enhance their skills.

In our online tutoring program, each and every lesson includes a morphology component introduced in the first lesson. Wolter and Collins identified a few critical skills students need when it comes to morphology. The first key understanding each student must have is the ability to segment words into their respective morphemes. For example, when giving the word , they need to be able to identify that it is composed of and to form the new word coming.

In each and every lesson beginning with the first session, our trained reading clinicians explicitly show students how to break words apart into appropriate morphological segments. Using a graphic organizer to help categorize the material, students are asked to break words apart into prefixes, base words, and suffixes. Each morpheme is color coded to help organize the information in a meaningful manner that will lead to an increase in reading skills. This instruction starts from the initial lesson and continues through all lessons.

girl-277719__340, CC0_pixabayA second skill the authors identify is the ability to combine base words and various prefixes and suffixes to make new words. In our online tutoring program, clinicians and students examine different prefixes and suffixes with a variety of base words to create new combinations with a variety of meanings. For example, using the base words <struc, struct> students can build and determine the meaning of a plethora of words like construct, construction, instruct, instructor, destruct, and many, many more.

Finally, Wolter and Collins suggest that students must have explicit instruction in the meanings of a variety of base words and affixes. Once students know these meanings, they can use this knowledge as an anchor to learn new words. For example, knowing that <sect, sec, seg> means “to cut,” and means “two”, students can determine that the meaning of bisect is “to cut into two”. This has a clear link to increasing vocabulary skills which aid in comprehension of higher level texts and is crucial for advanced reading comprehension.

During our online sessions, our reading clinicians provide direct, explicit instruction on the meaning of a variety of base words and affixes. Each lesson contains a variety of morphemes that students learn and has multiple examples of these morphemes in words. For instance, during a lesson in our program, students work with the prefix and learn that it means “between, among.” They are then asked to apply this knowledge to understand the meaning of words like interrupt, interstate, and interpersonal. In doing so, they have the opportunity to practice manipulating morphemes which will increase their vocabulary and their reading abilities.

learn-921255__340-cc0_pixabayIf your child struggles with new vocabulary words and morphological skills, it is not something they will learn on their own. They need direct, explicit reading tutoring from a trained professional. Here at RW&C, our clinicians are up to date on the latest reading research, and they apply these best practices in every one of their lessons. Our program has a strong morphological component, introduced in the first lesson, and our clinicians are trained in the best methods to explicitly teach this skill to students.

Don’t let your child fall further and further behind due to a gap in morphological understanding. Contact us today to set up online tutoring and get your child the help they need to be successful. With the right instruction and a program based on best practices in reading research, your child will acquire the tools necessary to succeed.

Timmie Murphy


(480) 213-4156


Timmie Murphy has dedicated most of her adult life to individuals with special needs. She has taught children with learning challenges in the classroom for over 11 years.
Timmie has experience working with individuals diagnosed with dyslexia, learning disabilities, cognitive and neurological disorders, Attention Deficit Disorder, Pervasive Developmental Disorders, including Asperger’s Syndrome and Autism.

Timmie Murphy is the founder and owner of RW&C, LLC. She is a graduate of St. Mary’s Dominican College with a B.A. in Elementary Education and Special Education

Letters To My Two Year Old: Dear Isaac

Letters To My Two Year Old: Dear Isaac

My second guest author is the wonderful Jana Hamlin! She is a busy working mother to her two year old son Isaac. In her spare time she is an avid runner. Like has run two marathons and is training for another. In fact, she had to stop marathon training when she found out she was pregnant. She is also an amazing cook. You can read more about her life, family, running, and try some delicious recipes by visiting her blog (you will not be disappointed. Her dedication is amazing and her food is super yummy).

I mean seriously, she is holding a 30 pound kid after she just ran 26 miles. She is awesome!

I mean seriously, she is holding a 30 pound kid after she just ran 26 miles. She is awesome!

Without further ado, here is her hilariously funny letter to her son.

Dear Isaac, 
You’ve probably known your grandma long enough to know that she loves telling the same stories over and over again. Well honey, I am her child and so I am probably going to be the same way. A lot of times these stories like to make an appearance when that special someone becomes a part of your life. You’ve certainly accumulated many of these stories in your two years of life. Some are sad and some are happy. Some are scary and some are amazing. Well my sweet dear boy.  I am writing to you to share a funny one because you are a goofy goofy boy.

That face....

That face….

It’s amazing how your vocabulary has exploded over the last few months. It’s also amazing how your mommy and daddy have learned to speak your toddler language. While many of your words are understandable, many also leave others saying, “what did he say?” Those are my favorite because they the most fun to try and decipher.  I’ll share some of them now and I’ll translate them for you. You’ll have to excuse my spelling…. I am a terrible speller when it comes to real words… throw fake words and I’m in trouble…. Let’s see…

Apple juice (not to be confused with the actual thing) which to you means pineapple.
Whagaus (your name for grapes, blueberries, and raspberries) 
Cop-pi-ter (helicopter)
Kiki- Our cat Link… which we call Linky
WayKnee-Our cat Rainy
Dee Dee-Chickadee
Do-Da- Your Auntie Julie
Doe-Your Uncle Joe
Na Na ee- Your cousin Natalie

I know that eventually these words will evolve and turn into the real thing at some point in your life. There have been some words that have already made this transformation and there are other words… that well…. transformed into something else…..

One of your first words was also one of my favorite words and that word is cruck. Boy oh boy do you love crucks.

Photo 3

You see son, that is how you used to say truck. A few months after you started saying this word it started to change….Cruck became Fruck and then Fruck quickly turned into Fruck minus the R.  For the sake of keeping this letter PG let’s just call it phuck. I’ll never forget the first time this transformation happened.  The conversation between me and your father went something like this:
Me: did he just say…
Daddy: … yeah. He did.

On our first trip to grandma’s house after this transformation took place you woke up from your nap and were excited to be on the interstate. One of your favorite things to do is shout the words of the things you see. Here you are in the backseat shouting, “PHUCK! BUS! BUS! PHUCK! BIG PHUCK! CAR! CAR! PHUCK! TWO PHUCKS! SEMI PHUCK!” I almost died of laughter in the front seat while daddy elbowed me.

Here we are several months later and well my sweet boy, truck is still phuck. It’s times like this I really wish we knew our neighbors better… or I wish that there were less phucks in the neighborhood. As I said, you love shouting the things you see. Lucky for us, a toddler running down the street screaming BIIIIG PHUCK hasn’t attracted a lot of attention.  Yet. But just to be on the safe side I usually say “yeah that is a big truck.”

We’ve learned to accept this word and treat the word how you mean to truly say it. We pretend you are saying it correctly…. but only two year olds are allowed to get away with swearing. I just hope that by the time you head off to college you will have corrected it.  Ahhhh what a great story to tell… over and over and over again.



I hope you enjoyed reading that letter as much as I did. I can’t decide what my favorite part is, that apple juice and pineapple are synonyms or the mental image of Isaac screaming “BIG PHUCK” in public. I had the pleasure of meeting Jana in person and she is just as funny in real life as she is online.

Trying to get a picture of two toddlers is like trying to herd cats...

Trying to get a picture of two toddlers is like trying to herd cats…

What are some hilarious and/or embarrassing things your kiddos have done? And, don’t forget to visit Jana over at http://www.runningvegeta