poem by Val Neubecker , illustrated by Andrew Joyner

Learning Intention:

I am learning how to explore word origins so that I can build morphemic families and work out the meaning of unfamiliar words.

Success Criteria:

  • I can recognise spelling patterns in a text.
  • I can explore word origins (etymology) of prefixes that indicate numbers.
  • I can compose my own text based on a morphemic family.

Essential Knowledge:

More information about morphology and vocabulary can be found in the NSW Government’s webpage on Stage 2 reading – Vocabulary in context.

Read the poem as a class. If you have a digital subscription, you may wish to listen to an audio recording, but ensure that students are able to see the written text. After reading, ask students the following question:

What is the link between the title and the body text of the poem?

Students should recognise that the poem contains many words that refer to a three of something. Instruct students to underline or highlight all of the words that refer to three (treble, triple, threesome, trine, triad, triplet, triptych, troika, tricycle, triplicate, trio). Then ask students to see if they can recognise patterns between these words (tri-/tre-).

Explain morphemes to students by addressing the following points:

  • Morphemes refer to the parts of a word.
  • There are three types of morphemes: prefixes, suffixes and root words.
  • Breaking down the word into morphemes can help you to decode its meaning.

Next, explain to students that the prefix tri- (sometimes spelt try- or tre-) is of Latin/Greek origin. It means having three, or a combination of three things. With this knowledge, ask students to work out or research the meaning of the words in the poem.

Ask students if they know any other prefixes that indicate a number of things. You may wish to provide a range of images to support discussion, such as a monocle, a bicycle, a school’s quadrangle or an octopus.

Explain that students will write their own poem about a numeral prefix of their own choosing. After deciding on the numeral, students should brainstorm a list of nouns that use this numeral. They may wish to use the website Lots of Words (a puzzle solving site) to help them come up with a list.

Students should then arrange the words in a funny, listing fashion. This should be in the style of the original poem. The emphasis should not be on emulating the rhythm and rhyme, rather developing a trace of a morphemic word family throughout the poem.

For example:

On this day … 8/8/1988

An octagonal cage with an octopus

A mandarin split in an octofid

A tired octomom with her octuplets

Fighting in a gloomy Octopolis

And scuttering octodontids on an Octobery day