Structural Analysis

Learning Strategy
Phonics & Decoding
Tier I,II

Lists of root words, prefixes, and suffixes (e.g.,
Reading First list)

Target Student

All students can benefit from this learning strategy, particularly those that struggle with decoding multisyllabic words.


Structural analysis is a strategy that can be used to facilitate decoding as students become more proficient readers. The decoding strategies in structural analysis aid students in learning parts of words (prefixes, suffixes) so they can more easily decode unknown multi-syllabic words.


Structural analysis is a learning strategy. Use explicit instruction (explanation, modeling, guided practice, independent practice) to teach structural analysis to students.

How To

Aside from using explicit instruction to teach structural analysis, the learned prefixes and suffixes should be embedded into texts and spelling instruction. Activities such as educational games can be used to help students practice decoding unknown words and to reinforce the application of previously taught prefixes and suffixes.

Explain the strategy. Review the concept of syllable. Explain that some syllables change or add meaning to a word. Show a poster defining root word, prefix, and suffix and explain the poster. Distribute a beginning list of commonly used prefixes and suffixes to use at first, and then gradually lengthen the list. Using the list, have students identify the meanings of some prefixes and suffixes. Explain that the rest of the word to which a prefix and/or suffix is added is called a root word.

Model the strategy. Model how to add the prefix or suffix (i.e. un) to a root word (i.e happy) to create a new word. Read the new word and state its meaning. For example, “The new word is unhappy. Un- means ‘not’ and happy means ‘with joy,’ so unhappy means ‘not happy’ or ‘without joy.” Model starting with happy and changing it to happiness, using thinking aloud to explain that the suffix ness was added to the end of happy and changed its meaning to a thing, Repeat the tasks until students achieve proficiency (can add the target prefixes or suffixes to root words and accurately decode and state their meaning).

Guided practice: Guide students in performing the strategy in small groups or in pairs. During this time, scaffold the learning and support students who need assistance in using the strategy. They can also model the think aloud strategy (when in pairs) to strengthen comprehension and learning of the steps involved. Once students understand the concept, you can create novel opportunities, activities, or games for them to practice reading words with word parts.

Independent practice: After guided practice, students should only use the strategy independently, once they have shown they have mastered the strategy. Students can also be given the opportunity to reflect on the strategy.

Adapted from WI RTI Center. (2014). Structural analysis. Retrieved from


Bursuck, W. D., & Damer, M. (2011). Teaching reading to students who are at risk or have disabilities: A multi-tier approach (2nd Ed). Boston, MA: Pearson.

Harris, M.L., Schumaker, J.B., & Deshler, D.D. (2011). The effects of strategic morphological analysis instruction on the vocabulary performance of secondary students with and without disabilities. Learning Disability Quarterly, 34, 17-33.

Vadasy, P. F., Sanders, E. A., & Peyton, J. A. (2006). Paraeducator-supplemented instruction in structural analysis with text reading practice for second and third graders at risk for reading problems. Remedial and Special Education, 27, 365-378.

Vaughn, S., & Linan-Thompson, S. (2004). Research-based methods of reading instruction: Grades K-3. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

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