Multisensory Activity: Suffixes -tion & -sion Color – Coded Card Game

Multisensory Activity: Suffixes -tion & -sion Color – Coded Card Game

Posted by Tammi Brandon on 4th Jun 2024

As educators, students occasionally ask us how to decide between suffix -tion and suffix -sion. Knowing whether to use the suffix -tion or -sion for many of us comes with time and practice. As we see and write more words, we develop our orthographic memory, the memory for letter patterns and word spellings. Orthographic memory may not be developed for young students or those struggling with reading and spelling. To aid students in learning whether to use suffixes -tion or -sion, teaching a couple of basic rules and incorporating a multisensory activity are helpful.

Gramatical Relevance

Most words ending in suffix -tion and suffix -sion serve a particular grammatical function. Understanding the function requires a deeper dive into the grammar and word classes they represent. Frequently, suffixes -tion and -sion are necessary to transform verbs into nouns. This process involves a shift from an action or a state (exemplified by the original verb) to the result of the concept of that action or state (the newly formed noun). Consider the verb 'operate.' When we add the suffix -tion, it transforms into 'operation,' shifting the class from a verb to a noun. Similarly, 'confess' evolves into 'confession' by adding the suffix -sion. This reflection on the transformation process provides insight into the roles -tion and -sion play in our language.

Understanding the Transformation

  • Nouns of Action: Words like 'action' or 'expansion' denote the act of doing something or the process of increasing in size. 
  • Nouns of State: 'Completion' and 'decision' describe the state of being completed or the act of deciding, respectively. 

In exploring these endings, we start to perceive a pattern that aids in decoding the language and grants us a greater appreciation for the structure and classification of English words. The suffixes -tion and -sion are gateways to understanding how verbs are morphed into new concepts.

Suffixes -tion & -sion Spelling Rules

As students and writers of the English language, we often encounter countless spelling rules that can seem daunting. Suffixes -tion and -sion, which sound similar, follow particular patterns when used in words.

Common Spelling Rules for Suffixes -tion & -sion

Understanding when to use -tion or -sion at the end of words hinges on a few key points: 

  • Verbs and Root Words: Generally, the suffix -tion is added to verbs ending in 't,' 'te,' or ‘ate.’ 
    • For instance, 'invent' transforms into 'invention,' and ‘relate’ turns into ‘relation.’ 
  • The /zhun/ Sound: Suffix -sion is the only way to spell words that end with the /zhun/ sound. 
    • For example, the words confusion, division, and explosion all end with -sion, which produces the sound /zhun/. 
  • Following Consonants: The suffix -sion typically follows consonants L, R, N, and SS. 
    • For instance, convulsion, version, mansion, and confession are words that end in L, R, N, and SS with ‘sion’ following. 
  • Word Origin: The suffix -sion is typical for Latin words where the root verbs end with 's' or 'se.' 
    • For Example, ‘discuss' changes to 'discussion.' 

Here are a few additional hints to help remember the spelling rules: 

  • If a verb ends with -ate, the noun form typically ends with -ation; for example, 'donate' becomes 'donation'. 
  • Words finishing with -ssion often stem from verbs ending with -ress or -mit, as seen in 'suppress' turning into 'suppression' and 'transmit' into 'transmission.' 

By contrasting the root verbs and paying attention to their endings, one can start to see a pattern that aids in determining whether -tion or -sion should conclude the word.

Suffixes -tion & -sion Multisensory Activity:

Once our students know the rules of suffixes -tion and -sion, 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.

More Suffix -tion & -sion Words to Practice

imagination        sensation         creation           assertion 

  invasion          discussion         decision       comprehension 

expression        conversion        reaction          extension 

   fiction              transition        conclusion         mention 

 inclusion             revision          provision         observation

~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.