Course Content
Chapter 3: Writing Mechanics Help
Chapter 12: Teaching Writing
Chapter 23: Teaching Reading
College English Composition: Help and Review
About Lesson

What Is Structural Analysis?

In English, many words typically consist of a root, a prefix, and/or a suffix. Structural analysis is a learning strategy that aids students in decoding an unknown word by dividing the word into parts to discover its meaning. Using structural analysis can make students into more proficient readers, as splitting up a word into parts allows a reader to understand how each piece contributes to the overall meaning of the word.

Aspects of Structural Analysis

Structural analysis in reading is when readers take apart words to understand their overall meaning. Structural analysis also assists students in getting into the habit of deconstructing a word to understand how multiple parts can alter the root word’s meaning. Thus, structural analysis is built on the use of multiple elements to foster a student’s ability to understand unknown words. Students will look at the root word (the main part), the prefix (the beginning part of the word), and the suffix (the end part of the word). By looking at each part of a word, a student can get a better sense of how the word’s meaning changes, given the prefix and suffix that may be attached to the base word.

This base word is referred to as a root, a word in itself that serves as the core to which a prefix or suffix can be attached. A prefix is a letter or group of letters attached to the beginning of a root word to alter the word’s overall meaning. For example, if the root word is “ordinary,” one may add the prefix “extra” to change the meaning of the word. A prefix is similar to a suffix in its ability to alter a word’s meaning, seeing as a suffix can be a letter or group of letters attached to the end of a word to change its overall meaning. For example, the word “lively” has the base word “live” with the suffix “-ly.”

Examples of Structural Analysis of Words

Students can use structural analysis to identify the meaning of unfamiliar words. For example, a student might encounter the word “abnormal” and not understand what it means. By splitting it up, they may look at the root word “normal” and understand that it means something typical or expected. Then, a student will look at the prefix “ab,” which means away. When looking at the entire word, the student can infer that “abnormal” means away from what is typical or expected.

Another example of structural analysis of words can be a word with a prefix and a suffix attached to the root word, like “abnormally.” Similar to the previous example, the student will look at the root word “normal,” the prefix “ab,” and then the addition of the suffix “-ly.” Since the student knows that “abnormal” means away from what is typical or expected, the suffix “-ly” will alter the word’s entire meaning, given that the suffix means having the qualities of or recurring at intervals. Looking at the word entirely, one can conclude that “abnormally” means away from what is typical or expected in a manner that is often.

Importance of Structural Analysis

Students will benefit from identifying the meaning of unfamiliar words through structural analysis, especially when presented with a word that has a root word they already know. Studying root words, prefixes, and suffixes can help students:

  • Learn how to deconstruct an unknown word into parts to understand its overall meaning better.
  • Understand the construction of a word by looking at the power of a prefix and suffix to alter a word’s meaning by adding either to a root word.
  • Increase their vocabulary and reading comprehension.

Deciphering unknown words is based on a student’s ability to locate a prefix, suffix, and root word. Knowing what a prefix means, for example, will allow students to efficiently deconstruct a word based on the knowledge of the prefix. For example, if the prefix “sub” is attached to the root word “merge,” a student may already know the prefix’s meaning prior to understanding the root word. They might know that “sub” means under, so the word must pertain to something down or below, based on the recognition of the prefix. Through structural analysis, students will be able to identify the meaning of unfamiliar words by understanding each component of a word rather than just the root.

Teaching Structural Analysis

When teaching structural analysis, introducing the meanings of root words, prefixes, and suffixes might be beneficial before teaching the division of a word’s parts. When a student knows what to look out for in a word’s entirety, they can better break a word down into smaller, more familiar words based on their knowledge of words they already know. For example, students may know the prefix “dis” means not, apart, or away. This prior knowledge of the prefix’s meaning will be helpful when it is added to words like “honest,” “satisfied,” or “respect”; students can understand the construction of the word by looking at how the prefix alters its overall meaning.

Students can also benefit from locating words with specific prefixes or suffixes in a dictionary or coming up with word combinations on their own based on their knowledge of the common parts of a word. When it comes to more advanced readers, it might be productive to introduce a color-coding method to understand further the definition of prefixes, root words, and suffixes. For example, in a chart, common prefixes and their meanings can be placed in black in one column, root words with their definition in red in another column, and suffixes with their definition in a purple column. This visual aid can be an efficient way for students to memorize or rehearse common prefixes and suffixes and better learn root words to add to their vocabulary.

Recognizing word parts can support students in the long run, from courses in English to science. The power of deconstructing a word into parts to better understand a word’s entirety allows students to understand the construction of a word but also introduces students to reassembling a deconstructed word to create an entirely different word when put together as opposed to being broken apart.

Lesson Summary

Structural analysis is a learning strategy that divides words into parts to discover and identify what an unknown word means. In English, many words consist of a root (the base that does not have a prefix or suffix and that cannot be reduced to a smaller word), a prefix (the beginning part of a word that consists of a letter or group of letters), and/or a suffix (the end part of a word that consists of a letter or group of letters). Prefixes and suffixes are similar because they can alter a word’s overall meaning.

The studying of roots, prefixes, and suffixes through structural analysis is imperative because it helps students break apart an unfamiliar word to understand the overall meaning of the word; pinpoint how prefixes and suffixes can alter a word’s meaning; understand how language is constructed; add to vocabulary while also positively affecting their reading comprehension. When learning structural analysis, color-coding can be a beneficial visual aid to help students quickly identify different parts of a word; prefixes can be placed in a column in one color, root words in another column in a different color, and suffixes in a column in yet another color. Color-coding allows students to easily see the links between prefixes, roots, and suffixes, enhancing understanding of the parts of words, which will help them learn different words.

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