William Shakespeare / During Reading / /

Shakespeare’s New Words

Exploring prefixes and suffixes used by Shakespeare to create new words.

Lesson length: 1 session

Lesson from William Shakespeare series

Text potential

  • Vocabulary: Morphology: Prefixes
  • Vocabulary: Neologisms

Strategies used

  • Vocabulary: Blended Approach


Research indicates that students who understand how words are formed by combining prefixes, suffixes, and roots tend to have larger vocabularies and better reading (Prince, 2009). In this lesson, the word ‘reflection’ is broken down into morphemes to support a deeper understanding of its multiple meanings. 

Approximately 75% of English words are derived from Latin and Greek roots. Cultivating an awareness of these roots develops skills in pronunciation, spelling and meaning. 


  • Copies of Be the Bard, one per pair. 
  • Copies of Divide and Conquer, one per pair.
  • A selection of dictionaries.
  • Draw a Divide and Conquer table onto a large sheet of paper or the board.
  • Copies of Shakespeare’s New Words, one per pair.


Begin by telling the children that the English language owes a great debt to Shakespeare. He invented over 1700 of our common words by changing nouns into verbs, changing verbs into adjectives, connecting words never before used together, adding prefixes and suffixes, and devising wholly original words. Some of Shakespeare’s devices for making new words included adding a prefix such as ‘un-’, meaning ‘not’, as in ‘uncomfortable’. He also added suffixes such as ‘-less’, meaning ‘without’, as in ‘noiseless’.

Write the word ‘premeditated’ on the board and complete the Divide and Conquer table:  

Word  Prefix and meaning  Root means  Suffix/inflexion means 
premeditated   pre 

previous to, before  


to ponder 


past tense inflexion 

Distribute copies of Shakespeare’s New Words to pairs. They should add the words to their Divide and Conquer table using dictionaries to support with meanings.

Gather the class to share responses and clarify and misconceptions.  

Finally, distribute copies of Be the Bard to pairs. The aim is to create as many new words using the morphemes on the board as possible. Which pair can create the most words and define each word in a given time frame? 

Final reflection

Challenge the class to use a prefix or suffix in new ways to create words. For example, which words could they create if someone took away their bike (‘unbiked’ or ‘bikeless’)?

Key vocabulary

prefix, suffix, root, premeditated

Additional vocabulary

impede, impartial


Copies of Be the Bard

Copy of Be the Bard

Shakespeare’s New Words

Shakespeare’s New Words (neologisms)


Sam Keeley

Formerly a teacher and local authority advisory teacher, Sam now works with Just Imagine as an English consultant and manager of the year 6 Reading Gladiators programme.

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