This lesson looks at words and word-formation and is designed for KS1 students.


  • To explore the definition of the notion 'word'. 
  • To explore how words are formed and understand some word-formation processes.
  • To explore how words create meaning.

Lesson Plan

Start the lesson by asking your students to discuss what a ‘word’ is. It's a surprisingly tricky thing to define! 

Next, display the following words on the board:

  • banana, bananas 

Are these the same word, or different? Why?

What about these?

  • teach, teacher, teaching-ing, teacher’s

What about these?

  • bananaing, bananaed, unbanana

In the course of this discussion, students should be encouraged to explore how words create meaning. For example, although we don’t want to say that ‘-s’ and ‘-ing’ are words, they nevertheless make meaning. Provide students with the definition of word taken from the National Curriculum glossary:

A word is a unit of grammar: it can be selected and moved around relatively independently, but cannot easily be split. In punctuation, words are normally separated by word spaces. Sometimes, a sequence that appears grammatically to be two words is collapsed into a single written word, indicated with a hyphen or apostrophe (e.g. well-built, he’s).

  • headteacher or head teacher [can be written with or without a space]
  • I'm going out
  • 9.30 am

Look back at some of the words from before:

banana, bananas, bananaed, teacher, teaching-ing

Which ones of these are words, or not? Why?

Next, carry out the words or not words? activity on Englicious, which you can find here.

Next, you could introduce some basic ways in which words are formed. This is called the process of word formation

Ask your students to think about which component words make up the following compounds, and check that students have an understanding of these.

lipstick, low-paid, hair cut, green-eyed, Facebook, nevertheless, jetlag, ice cream, man-eating, six-page, green-eyed

For each compound, ask students to think about the word class of each. What patterns emerge? Are compounds normally nouns, adjectives, or something different?

The discussion should reveal that compound words are typically nouns (lipstick, hair cut, jet-lag etc.). Remember that nouns can be modified by adjectives (e.g. pink lipstick; cheap hair cut; bad jet-lag). However, some of the compounds are also adjectives (six-page; green-eyed). Remember that adjectives can modify nouns (six-page book; green-eyed monster).

Finally, apply and contextualise students' knowledge of words and how they are formed by reading The Whango Tree (unknown author) with them. Read the poem for meaning, and then ask students to try and work out what the invented, nonsense words might mean. The full text is here:

The woggly bird sat on the whango tree, 

    Nooping the rinkum corn, 

And graper and graper, alas! grew he, 

    And cursed the day he was born. 

His crute was clum and his voice was rum, 

    As curiously thus sang he, 

"Oh, would I'd been rammed and eternally clammed 

    Ere I perched on this whango tree." 


Now the whango tree had a bubbly thorn, 

    As sharp as a nootie's bill, 

And it stuck in the woggly bird's umptum lorn 

    And weepadge, the smart did thrill. 

He fumbled and cursed, but that wasn't the worst, 

    For he couldn't at all get free, 

And he cried, "I am gammed, and injustibly nammed 

    On the luggardly whango tree." 


And there he sits still, with no worm in his bill, 

    Nor no guggledom in his nest; 

He is hungry and bare, and gobliddered with care, 

    And his grabbles give him no rest; 

He is weary and sore and his tugmut is soar, 

    And nothing to nob has he, 

As he chirps, "I am blammed and corruptibly jammed, 

    In this cuggerdom whango tree." 






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