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Introduce: The Prefixes en- and em-

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Lesson Type: Introduce
Grade: 2, 3
Group Size: Pairs, Small Group, Large Group, Whole Class
Length: 15 minutes
Goal: Given the prefixes en- and em-, students will generate and use words that contain en- and em-.

Materials: Board or chart paper

What to Do


Write the prefixes en- and em- on the board or on a piece of chart paper for the students to see.


1. Introduce the prefixes en- and em- and solicit examples of words that contain en- and em-.

Today we are going to learn about prefixes. Who knows what a prefix is?

2. Allow time for students to respond.

A prefix is a word part added to the beginning of a word. It changes the meaning of a word. En- and em- are prefixes that are used in many words. Encourage, enrich, and empower are all words that have the prefixes en- and em- in them. Do you know of any other words that have the prefixes en- and em-?

3. As students share, write the responses on the board or on a piece of chart paper. Circle the prefixes en- and em- in each word as it is given.

4. Define the meaning of en- and em-, as well as words containing the prefixes en- and em-.

Look at the list of words with the prefixes en- and em-. Who knows what en- and em- mean? En- and em- mean “cause to.” Look at encourage. Encourage means “to cause to have courage.” When the prefix en- is added to courage, it changes the meaning of the word. Can anyone tell us what enrich means? What about empower?

5. Solicit the meanings of the remaining words from the first step.


6. Connect words to students’ prior knowledge. Ask students a variety of questions to help them connect their experiences to the words in the list generated in the first step. For example:

Who has encouraged you?

What subject has enriched your life?

Can anyone use empower in a sentence?


For Advanced Students:

Encourage these students to use each word on the class-created list in a sentence.

Explain how the parts of speech may change when a given prefix is added. For example, adding the prefixes en- and em- changes the word from a noun or an adjective to a verb.

For Struggling Students:

For the students who have difficulty understanding what a prefix is, try presenting the word list above as a series of math equations. For example:

  • en + courage = encourage
  • en + rich = enrich
  • em + power = empower

For ELL Students:

Point out that some of the same prefixes may exist in their native language. If the prefix is not the same as in English, there may be an equivalent in their native language.

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