Continuum Unpacked

Compound Words (anglo saxon)


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Category: Word-Level Reading and Spelling

The English writing system is based not only on sound but also on meaning. Orthographic knowledge refers to the understanding of the English spelling system and its patterns, including grapheme positions and combinations in a word. Morphological knowledge refers to the understanding of how morphemes can be used to form words. A morpheme is the smallest unit of meaning within words, including prefixes, suffixes, and bases. All words are made up of one or more morphemes. 

Students apply their consolidated phonological awareness and phonics knowledge, as well as their developing orthographic and morphological knowledge, to read and spell words in isolation and in various text contexts.

Knowledge and Skills:

Applying Morphological Knowledge in Reading and Spelling

Kindergarten to Grade 4
  • Understanding that words consist of bases that convey meaning and that can be modified with affixes (prefixes and suffixes) to change the meaning of the word. Adding prefixes and/or suffixes may have three other impacts on the resulting words:
  • changing the word’s function or role in a sentence (e.g., changing a verb to a noun);
  • changing the word’s pronunciation (e.g., medic vs. medicine); and/or
  • uncommonly, changing the word’s spelling (e.g., hop vs. hopping, divide vs. division)
  • Developing the ability to segment words into recognizable morphemes and to apply their morphological knowledge to spell and read longer and more complex words

Looks like


  • orally working with groups of words with the same base (e.g., play, playing, playdate)
  • recognizing compound words during oral activities

Grade 1

  • using compounding to join bases (e.g., for book, note + book = notebook, book + shelf = bookshelf), and affixing when appropriate

Why is this important?

Phonics lays the foundation for reading comprehension. By learning phonics, students acquire the ability to decode words. Decoding allows students to read words, sentences, and eventually, texts accurately.
To decode, students must understand the relationship between sounds and print, or grapheme-phoneme correspondence. To support automatic, effortless word reading, it is crucial that students can accurately and automatically associate graphemes with phonemes.


This grapheme-phoneme correspondence should be systematically and explicitly taught, within a scope and sequence that builds from more simple to more complex concepts. Explicit instruction is characterized by direct modelling, guided practice, and purposeful individual practice. Grapheme-phoneme correspondences should not be taught in isolation, but should instead be closely linked to other activities in the literacy block. Students should practice both reading and writing words containing sound-spelling links they have learned, and texts should offer students opportunities to decode words with this pattern. This careful integration encourages students to apply developing knowledge and skill to other reading and writing tasks.
Students need to be taught that…