Ahhh, the age-old question of whether to use suffix -tion or -sion when spelling a word. Okay, it might not be an age-old question, but as educators, we do hear that question from students on occasion. For many of us, knowing whether to use suffix -tion or -sion comes with time and practice. As we see and write more words, we begin to develop a memory for how to spell them correctly. For young students, or those struggling with reading and spelling, that memory development just isn’t there yet. To aid students in learning which suffix to use, knowing a couple of basic rules and doing a multisensory activity are quite helpful.
Rules to Know:
-sion is the only way to spell words with the /zhun/ sound
-sion follows certain consonants, mainly l, r, n, and ss
-tion words sometimes have an “ate” word that corresponds with them
operate – operation
relate – relation
accommodate – accommodation
Once our students know the rules, having them do a multisensory activity to reinforce the rules will aid in their learning and mastery of this important spelling skill. Write the -tion rule and the -sion rules on two separate index cards or strips of paper. Using construction paper, cut small strips from three different colors. On one color, make several -tion cards. On a second color, make several -sion cards. On the third color, write several different -tion and -sion words without the -tion and -sion.
When the activity is ready, have the student select a word card and verbalize whether it should connect to a -tion or an -sion ending card. In the case of our first word, vaca-, it pairs with -tion because there is an -ate word that corresponds with it: vacate.
In the case of our next word compul-, it ends in an L and therefore gets paired with –sion.
Which rule applies to our next word? How would the student use reason to explain their choice? The word ends in an N, so it pairs with -sion.
With this activity, students should continue to explain why they chose to use -tion or -sion. Doing this activity on more than one occasion helps students to develop the critical reasoning skills needed to be successful spellers and also helps them to develop a strong visual memory for words. It is also an engaging activity for various-aged learners and can be done one-on-one, in small groups, with partners, or even whole class either with larger word cards on the whiteboard.
~Tammi Brandon, M.Ed., CDP
Tammi Brandon is a Master Instructor and Education Consultant with Brainspring Educator Academy.
Bring Brainspring Orton-Gillingham multisensory instruction to your classroom, transforming struggling K-12 readers into skilled learners through our effective, evidence-based approach.