Spelling of suffixes and the pronunciation of the schwa


Start by dividing class into pairs or small groups.

Stage 1: Write the following list (or similiar) on the board, or give it as a handout to each group. (The best way to compile a list might be to follow-on from previous work, like a reading comprehension task which has included some of the suffixes).

  • List 1: wonder, suspect, manage, detect, write, interpret, home, success, instruct, protect, harm, pronounce, demonstrate, discuss, admire, survive, beauty, correct, communicate, politics, buy, thought, infect….
  • List 2: -er, -or, -ian, -ful, -ation, -tion, -icion, – ent, -less, -ion

Students work together to try to add suffixes from list 2 to the words on list 1.  Some might be quite easy while others will prove challenging; some involve a change in spelling (e.g. pronounce/pronunciation).

Groups and pairs then compare answers with the whole class.  Teacher should make sure that all ss have the opportunity to write down the correct answers in their notebooks.

Stage 2: As the students to mark the primary stresses on the words they have made, elicit a couple of examples from the class to make sure that everyone has the right idea, for example:  wonderful  detection

Stage 3: After the students have had time to discuss their answers, and after they have been checked, ask ss to  mark all the incidences of the /ə/.  It is useful to elicit a few examples and perhaps drill the sound chorally a few times to make sure that all students understand the nature of the exercise.  Get the ss to say the words aloud or to each other if they are not sure.  Having compared their answers elicit the answers the group (or invite ss to come to the board and mark the incidences of the
/ə/.  Then draw the ss attention to the fact that most (but not all) incidences of the /ə/ fall on the suffixes and that all of the suffixes contain one example of the schwa sound.  The lexical work in this type of activity can also be tied in with work on word stress as the /ə/ will always be part of the unstressed syllable.