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“-tion” Suffix Lesson Plan

Extension Tension

  • Students will learn to recognize and spell sets of words with /shun/ suffixes.
  • Students will become familiar with common t-i-o-n, s-i-o-n, s-s-i-o-n, and c-i-a-n words.
About the Concept:

Many multi-syllable words in the English language end with a suffix that has the sound of /shun/. The spelling of this suffix takes several different forms that we can group into four word families: the t-i-o-n family, the s-i-o-n family, the s-s-i-o-n family, and the c-i-a-n family. The most common spelling of the suffix /shun/ is t-i-o-n as in the words vacation, nation, reaction, and attraction. Other words end with the same /shun/ sound but use a different spelling of that suffix. Words such as mansion, tension, and expansion use the spelling s-i-o-n for the /shun/ sound. Words such as mission, fission, and session use the spelling s-s-i-o-n; and words such as physician, musician, and magician use the spelling c-i-a-n. Students need practice in knowing which spelling of the suffix /shun/ they should use in their writing, and the choice is not always obvious. The song Extension Tension helps students become familiar with families or groups of words that all spell the /shun/ suffix the same way. By having a bank of such examples in their heads, students are more likely to choose the correct spelling of these words in their personal writing. For example, students who have learned the song know that the words physician and optician use the c-i-a-n spelling. With this background, writers are more likely to infer the correct spelling of the suffix for the words beautician, pediatrician, or mortician. Students familiar with the family of words in the song that end in s-s-i-o-n (e.g., session, confession) will be more likely to choose the correct letters for other words in that family like impression and expression. By using the Mini-Chart templates and the instrumental track on the Sing Your Way Through Phonics CD, students can expand and build up their mental bank of words in each of the four common word families. [Note: Many s-i-o-n suffixes begin with the /zh/ sound as in the word confusion. See the song When S is Sweet as Sugar in the Sing Your Way Through Phonics Volume 3 CD for other examples of this spelling and pronunciation.]


Note: If you do not have the CD or Mini-Charts, you can still teach this -tion suffix lesson plan using the folk tune listed on the Extension Tension Song Lyrics page. You can create your own mini-charts using the words in bold print letters in each verse of the Song Lyrics.

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two balloons
mini-chart pages
mini-chart pages
mini-chart pages
mini-chart pages
mini-chart pages
mini-chart pages
mini-chart page
  1. Say, “I’m going to say several different words that all have something in common when you hear them. See if you can tell what is the same for each word in the group: vacation, pension, Can you hear anything similar about these words: nation, mission, comprehension, musician?” (ending sound /shun/)
  2. Say, “Although all the words I junst said end with the /shun/ sound, that sound is spelled differently in each of the words. Today, we are going to learn about four different ways to spell the /shun/ ending and we will learn some words that belong to each of those four families.”
  3. Assign partners or study buddies for each student. Say, “I’m going to time you for 1 minute. In that time, you and your partner should state as many words with the /shun/ ending as you can think of. Ready? Go!.” Time the group for 1 minute.
  4. Now we are going to toss a balloon (alt. bean bag, ball) from one person to the next. As you toss the balloon to the next person, say one of your /shun/ words. Try not to say any words that have already been said. If you need more time to think of another word, keep the balloon in the air by tapping it over yourself until another word comes to you. Your partner may help you think of a word. Perform this activity.
  5. Say, “Now, let’s listen to a song that tells about four different ways to spell the suffix /shun/. Follow along as I point to the target words on the Mini-Charts.” Play Extension Tension from Sing Your Way Through Phonics Vol. 3 CD. Point to the Mini-Charts on pages 102-114. If you do not have the CD, access the song lyrics listed above and sing to the tune of “Workin’ on the Railroad.”
  6. Say, “Who can remember one of the ways to spell /shun/?” (ex. t-i-o-n) “Who can remember another way to spell the same sound?” Repeat this last question until s-i-o-n, s-s-i-o-n, and c-i-a-n are spelled. Turn to page 104 in the Mini-Charts to confirm these four spellings.
  7. Tell students that you will replay the song and ask them to join in on the repeated parts. Students should join in on the refrain (Mini-Charts pp. 102, 105, 111, 114) and the verse endings (Mini-Charts pp. 104, 107, 110, 113). Rep0lay the CD track and point to the Mini-Charts.
  8. Say, “Of the four different spellings for /shun/, the most common is t-i-o-n. Let’s examine the Mini-Chart pages and find all the words spelled with t-i-o-n.” (invention, fraction, attraction, collection, correction)
  9. Say, “Now let’s find all the words in the song spelled with s-i-o-n, with only one s.” (extension, tension, mansion, expansion, dimension, suspension). Say, “What do you notice that is the same about the spelling of each of these words?” (All have the letter n before the suffix s-i-o-n.)
  10. Say, “Now let’s find all the words in the song spelled with the suffix s-s-i-o-n.” (session, confession, discussion, percussion) Ask, “What do you notice about the spelling of all the s-s-i-o-n words? Hint: Look at the type of letter that precedes the s-s?” (vowel)
  11. Say, “Finally, let’s find all the words in the song spelled with -cian.” (magician, musician, physician, optician) “What do you notice about the meaning of each of these words?” (all describes types of people)
  12. Play the CD and ask students to try to join in on all the words of the song. See if some of the students want to be pointers to the target words on the Mini-Charts. Supervise pointing and page turning.

mini-chart blank page template
  1. Practice singing Extension Tension daily for a week. Then try singing the song without hearing the words, using the instrumental track (Track 20). Allow different students to point to the Mini-Charts words while singing.
  2. Help students create other sets of /shun/ words for the song. Make 13 copies of Mini-Chart template p.118 and allow students write in the new sets of words, duplicating the song’s words only on the repeated parts (See Step 7). Examples: -tionstation, fiction, portion, caution; -sioncomprehension, pension, pretension, convulsion, [Note that many words with -sion endings, e.g., occasion, conversion, begin with the /zh/ sound rather than the /sh/ sound]; -ssionintermission, permission, expression, possession; -cianelectrician, beautician, politician, technician. Place these pages back-to-back in page protectors in a 3-ring binder. Then sing the song with the instrumental version (Track 20).

front of yarn wrap game card
back of yarn wrap game card
  1. Do a dictionary search for words with each of the four spellings for -shun. Use a dictionary on CD-ROM such as Encarta or use an online dictionary such as To search, type in the (wildcard) asterisk (*) character before the ending letters. For example, type in *tion in the Search box. To find words with -sion endings, type in *nsion or *lsion in the Search box. Create a word wall or bullten board with these words in word family groups.
  2. Create the Suffix Wrap game by cutting cardstock into four strips. With a hole punch, create four notches on the left side and sixteen notches on the right side. Print word beginnings next to the left notch. Print possible endings next to the right notches. Create a placeholder slit at the top and the bottom of the strip. Use yarn to connect correct word beginnings and endings while wrapping around the card until all have been matched. Use the placeholder slits to secure the yarn at the beginning and the end. (See illustrations at right. Make these cards self-checking by tracing the yarn patterns on the back with pencil or pen. Laminate for durability.
  3. Write funny or silly poems with rhyming words that have /shun/ endings. Sometimes these rhyming endings will be spelled the same (e.g., vacation, explanation) and sometimes, the rhyming endings will be spelled differently (e.g., invention, dimension). Illustrate the poems and place in a class book.

  1. Students read all the words on Mini-Charts pp.102-114 without assistance, or
  2. Students pass a spelling test on the words from Mini-Charts pp.102-114.

Combo 3 photo
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