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 W

This smile can hide a lot of devious intentions...

This smile can hide a lot of devious intentions…

I am so excited to announce that I am going to be running a series for the next few weeks called “Letters To My Two Year Old!” I have some amazing guest authors lined up. Everyone from bloggers, to amazing moms I have met online, to personal friends will be writing their thoughts to their favorite two year old monster (I mean, toddler).

I am creating this series for a couple of reasons. One being that two is a hard age (I hear three is worse, so don’t even tell me about that because I might start crying). Two is an age filled with tantrums, time outs, limit testing, hitting, biting, scratching. It is an age when your little darling suddenly turns into a rage filled beast. Sometimes I find myself going through old pictures of my son just to remind myself of how cute and precious he was. (Side note, this is a habit I got from my mom. Anytime you came home to find her with the photo album out, you knew you were in TROUBLE).

He really was precious, wasn' t he?

He really was precious, wasn’ t he?

Another reason is that, for as hard as two is, it is amazing. It is an age filled with discovery, adventures, new firsts, hugs, kisses, words, giggles, and games. I want to remember the beauty of this age. I may need it for reference when my son is a teenager.

I love watching him discover new things, like giraffes

I love watching him discover new things, like giraffes

And "snow."

And “snow.”

I am going to get things started with my letter to my little man.

Dear W,

There are plenty of letters and blogs dedicated to children that are about lessons and the important things in life. This is not one of those. Yes, I want you to dance, and sing, and find happiness. But those will come in time. Right now, I just want to remember a snap shot of your life from a few days ago.

It was a Thursday, in May.

Today was a tough day. It was a daycare day and you were angry about waking up. You thrashed, yelled, and threw things. You cried and clung to me when we got there. You only wanted daddy when I picked you up. You were mad at me and you were jealous of baby. You head butted her. You hit me. You threw a truck at me when I was feeding her. You were in time out twice in less than an hour. I tried to hug you but you pushed away.

At bedtime, you asked to get up. Against my better judgment, I let you. I am glad I did because that is when it happened. The perfect, small moment. We were sitting on the floor together. You were playing with your vinyl car “stickies.” I was helping you straighten them and rubbing your back. You looked at me, smiled and said “mommy.” In that moment, the stress of the morning disappeared. The tantrums were forgotten, the time outs a thing of the past. In that moment, I was complete. I love you. Forever and always.


What about you? What are some precious moments you want to remember?
If you would like to participate in the series, please contact me via my Facebook page.

Sensory Play for Lazy Moms

Yea, I didn't make this river habitat sensory bin. But if you like it, check out some other ideas from this mama at

Yea, I didn’t make this river habitat sensory bin. But if you like it, check out some other ideas from this mama at

Everyone who has small children and Pinterest has heard about sensory play. It is all the rage; meticulously planning activities to build your child’s awareness of the world around him using his five sense. And, whether we admit it or not, we all want to be that mom. You know the one, the mom who makes the most amazing sensory bins. The mom who uses 5 different colors of blue Jello to create a realistic ocean scene showing the zones of the sea and the continental plates under the ocean floor for her three year old to explore. The mom who puts together a farm bin using 17 different farm animals, a barn that is built to scale, and flowers that are actually scented. The mom who stays up at night making rainbow rice, cloud dough, oobleck, and mini-car washes out of balloons and streamers. But, alas, I am not that mom. And if you’re being honest, most of you aren’t either. But I don’t have to be and neither do you. All sensory play means is that your child is touching, tasting, seeing, hearing, or smelling something while playing (which based on this description means that pretty much any diaper change is sensory play for a toddler). You don’t have to create a fancy bin or activity that will be torn apart, ruined, and inevitably have its parts lost under your couch in less than 10 seconds. Here are some cheap and lazy ideas for fun sensory play.


1. Water Table. This has been the most valuable purchase I have ever made. I bought it for 30 bucks at Toys R Us and we use it almost daily (it helps that I live in Phoenix so water table season is January thru November). My two year old son loves the water table. He splashes in it and feels the cold water. He throws rocks in to hear the clunk on the bottom and see the water shoot up into the air.

He would throw rocks into this thing for literally hours.

He would throw rocks into this thing for literally hours.

The best part for me is that I only have to look up from Facebook every so often to talk about what he is seeing, hearing, and feeling.

Sometimes I get a little too engrossed in Facebook or caring for my other child, only to realize he has created the water table of danger. Love that you're taking initiave kid, but I am going to have to insist on less stakes.

Sometimes I get a little too engrossed in Facebook or caring for my other child, only to realize he has created the water table of danger. Love that you’re taking initiave  kid, but I am going to have to insist on less stakes.

I also will occasionally enjoy a beer on the patio while he is learning about the sensory world. Way better than making some elaborate dinosaur bin. Bonus points on some days because he licks a rock and we can talk about taste.

2. Play Doh. Every kid loves play doh and the stuff is super cheap. My son squishes it and sometimes tastes it (what kid doesn’t lick a little play doh?). It engages his sense of touch and taste. I talk about the colors and textures he is experiencing and I get to sit down for 10-20 minutes while he plays.

My kid totally looks this happy and upper middle class while he plays with play doh. He's not ususally in only a diaper....

My kid totally looks this happy and upper middle class while he plays with play doh. He’s not ususally in only a diaper….

3. The Park. This place is the mother-load of sensory play activities. Our current favorite is rock throwing (notice a theme?). My son loves to throw rocks against the grill and equipment at the park to hear the loud clang it makes. We talk about the sounds he hears and the textures of the rocks. He also loves to play in the sand which is another great activity for talking about sights and textures. And, just like in the back yard, we occasionally get to discuss what dirt tastes like. The best part for me is that I can do most of my narration from the park bench and have some time to check my Instagram feed.

He's having fun, I promise...

He’s having fun, I promise…

4. Sensory Baths. So, this is the only remotely “Pinteresty” idea on the list and it doesn’t involve throwing rocks or eating things you shouldn’t. The steps are simple. Start bath water, add food coloring, put child in tub, talk about colors and how the water feels. That is it. (Disclaimer, I have not yet stained my tub with this activity, but I can’t promise you won’t stain yours).

5. Beans and Noodles. For this activity, give your kid dry pasta, beans, and some various sized containers. Let him play. Word of caution, if you do this inside, be prepared to find beans and pasta noodles all over your house for a long time.

This took me two minutes to organize and he spent an hour playing with it. Win.

This took me two minutes to organize and he spent an hour playing with it. Win.

6. Go For a Walk. Go nowhere in particular. The goal isn’t to get somewhere, it is to explore. Let your little one touch plants, rocks, dirt, tree trunks, and sticks. Let them smell flowers. Point out lizards. Talk about the warmth of the sun or the chill of the wind. Enjoy some quiet, non-goal oriented time. Bonus points for mommy senses on this one. You get to have a heightened awareness of poisonous snakes, bugs, and speeding traffic. Moms need sensory play too.

Look mom! Keep your eyes and ears open!  Image from

Look mom! Keep your eyes and ears open!
Image from

There’s my list of easy, cheap, and lazy sensory activities to help your little one grow and help mommy get some downtime. You’ll notice most of them have dirt or water. You can’t go wrong with dirt and water.

And if all else fails, get your kid a traffic cone. Mine likes it better than Gymboree anyways.

And if all else fails, get your kid a traffic cone. Mine likes it better than Gymboree anyways.

What are your ideas for fun, sensory driven play?