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Introduce: The Prefixes un- and dis-

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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 un- and dis-, students will generate and use words that contain un- and dis-.

Materials: Board or chart paper

What to Do


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


1. Introduce the prefixes un- and dis- and solicit examples of words that contain un- and dis-.

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. Un- and dis- are prefixes that are used in many words. Unlock, unhappy, and disapprove are all words that have the prefixes un- or dis- in them. Do you know of any other words that have the prefixes un- or dis-?

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

4. Define the meaning of un- and dis-, as well as words containing the prefixes un- and dis-.

Look at the list of words with the prefixes un- and dis-. Who knows what un- and dis- mean? Un- and dis- mean “not.” Look at unlock. Unlock means “to not lock.” When the prefix un- is added to lock, it changes the meaning of the word. Can anyone tell us what unhappy means? What about disapprove?

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:

Can you unlock the door, please?

What makes you unhappy?

Can anyone use disapprove 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 prefix is added. In the case of the prefix un-, the part of speech stays the same. For example, the verb lock becomes the verb unlock.

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:

  • un + lock = unlock
  • un + happy = unhappy
  • dis + approve = disapprove

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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