Are you looking to level up your phonics lessons in a fun and engaging way? If so, I know you’ll love adding word families to your weekly teaching routine. If you’re a primary teacher working with young students, teaching word families will be an absolute game-changer when it comes to strengthening their confidence and overall reading fluency. Ready for all the deets? Let’s make teaching word families fun and simple!
So, What Are Word Families?
Word families refer to groups of words that share a common phonetic pattern. These groups of words will sound similar and rhyme when said aloud. In kindergarten, we focus on teaching word families with short vowels and the same suffix.
For example, words that end with -at would all be in the same word family and contain the short a sound. Some words in this family include mat, pat, cat, fat, and rat. However, many other words also contain the short a sound such as ran, ham, nap, and mad.
Typically when I teach word families in my room, we focus on one new suffix at a time. We’ll cover a variety of words for that suffix, and then move on to another suffix, with the same vowel sound. Eventually, students will be able to identify words from many different families that have the same vowel sound, but different suffixes.
What Are the Benefits of Teaching Word Families?
Teaching word families builds phonemic awareness and gives students practice with phonemes. As students say words, listen to the sounds, and identify patterns, they will become more fluent readers over time. Students will also begin to identify a pattern: words that sound similar have the same letters at the end. This discovery is an important one to facilitate confidence and awareness in reading skills!
Aside from the obvious benefits, teaching word families is fun and engaging for students. If your phonics routine is feeling a bit hum-drum, or students are “checking out”, the rhyming fun of teaching word families can change it all! There’s nothing quite like seeing your students light up with excitement as they begin to recognize and recite word families before your eyes!
My Favorite Resources for Teaching Word Families
So, how do we go about teaching word families in kindergarten? This is a simple process that you can repeat on a weekly basis as you introduce new word families. In my classroom, much of the introduction and practice is done in small groups. However, I also like to incorporate word families into whole group teaching, review, and even center time too! The key for me and my students is variety. Many different resources ensure that I maintain student interest, as well as meet the diverse needs of a variety of learners in my classroom.
Introducing New Word Families
First things first, it’s time to introduce a brand new set of word families to your students. This step is fun to introduce as a whole class before you split off into small groups for the morning. I like to use a good old-fashioned easel, but you can use the whiteboard, or even a SmartBoard if you’d like. Start out by writing your word ending for everyone to see and saying it aloud a few times.
For example, if you’re working on the -ap family, you’ll write that on the easel or board. Then, say 1-3 words that belong to that family aloud. I like to really emphasize the ending sound for my kiddos and move my mouth slowly so they can see and hear the sounds.
Then, I will ask students to close their eyes and think about (not shout out) words that might also belong to that family. After 20 seconds or so, I will ask them to open their eyes and volunteer to share words they think belong. The results of this exercise will vary greatly depending on how many times you’ve done this and the skill level of your students. The first time around, you might want to provide a few words before taking student suggestions. As correct words are called out, add them to your easel or the board.
By the end, you should have a nice list of words that belong to that family. I like using an easel with chart paper for this because I can take it with me to my small groups for continued practice. It’s a great visual, especially if you take a few minutes to draw some fun illustrations for your kiddos too!
Teaching Word Families with Interactive Notebooks
After the introduction, it’s time to dive into teaching word families in depth. My favorite resource for teaching word families in a fun and engaging way is our interactive notebooks. The activities in these resources are just so versatile! I love that I can pull kiddos aside for an in-depth lesson in small groups using these visual aids. On the other hand, I also love being able to address my whole group at once, while all of the kiddos have a hands-on activity to work on! The versatility and adaptability are a total win in my book. Some of the activities included in these word family interactive notebooks include:
- Sort by Word Family
- Word Family Word Search
- Roll, Write, Graph
- Real & Not Real Word Pockets
- Highlight then Trace
- Word Family Sliders and so many more!
There are 22 different activities for each word family so you can pick and choose which ones work best for your group. This also makes differentiation a breeze as well, if you have students working at different paces. As an added bonus, these activities will give your students much-needed practice with fine motor skills. As they trace, highlight, color, cut, and paste – they’ll be working every one of those tiny hand muscles.
These notebooks really are the “bread and butter” of our teaching routine for new word families. As students work through each activity, they learn to recognize the patterns and sounds of each family. This also helps to reinforce each short vowel sound too! The best part of these interactive notebooks though is that every student will have a huge record of all of the activities for each word family and short vowel. I love flipping through them to see how my students have progressed as time has gone on.
Center Activities to Practice Word Families
Practice makes progress, right?! While the interactive notebooks above offer plenty of practice opportunities, I also like to sprinkle some additional activities throughout our center rotation time as well. We all know that students learn differently. By teaching word families through different methods and lessons, I have a much better chance of reaching every kiddo, no matter their learning style!
Cover It Up Word Family Worksheets
First on my list is one of my no-prep, classroom heroes! This activity works for centers, morning tubs, fast finishers, and even warm-ups in small groups! To play, students will identify the ending sound at the top of the page, and then cover up all the pictures that match it. For example, for the -ap family, students will cover words like cap, map, and nap.
Students can use manipulatives or mini erasers to cover each picture as well as fun things like playdough! You can even give students crayons and have them color as they go. After they finish, have them trade spots with a friend and check each other’s work. This is a great way to brush up on previously taught word families and sneak in a little extra practice throughout the year.
Word Family Boom Cards
There’s no denying it, young students love technology. Digital games, like those on the Boom Learning platform, are a great way to engage students on a daily basis! When it comes to center time, I love using Boom cards to lighten the load a bit while also giving my students an activity I know they’ll love!
These Word Family Boom Cards are the perfect way to give your students additional practice. These cards are set up very similarly to the “Cover it Up Worksheets”, but students will use them on a tablet or device. Students will identify the word family at the top of the card and then find the matching pictures on the screen.
These activities are self-correcting and provide immediate feedback, making them great for independent practice as well as center time. These also work well for the SmartBoard, if you need a quick and easy activity to play with your whole group!
Let’s Make a Square Word Family Game
I love learning games, and Let’s Make a Square: Word Family Edition is a classroom favorite! The great thing about this game is that it can be played as a partner game, which the kiddos absolutely love! Assign the no-prep worksheets to students during centers or independent work time and watch the engagement begin!
To play, students will take turns drawing one vertical or horizontal line at a time to connect two dots side by side. When one student completes a square around a word or picture, they are able to claim that word. The catch is, they can only do so if they can correctly identify or read the word. If they identify the word or picture, they color it. If they cannot identify the word or picture, their partner can “steal” the square by correctly identifying and coloring the square. Students will continue to draw lines, claim, and color squares until all squares are claimed. The student with the most squares colored wins!
This game comes in two versions, one with words and one with pictures. This game is best played after you’ve already taught all the word families for a specific short vowel since the pages show a mix of words from many families. There are options for short a, e, i, o, and u included!
Teaching Word Families is FUN!
Are you reading to tackle teaching word families in your classroom? These lessons are among my favorites because they ignite so much excitement in my little learners! If you’re hoping to infuse some fun into your lessons, while teaching essential phonics skills – word families will be your best friend! You can find all of these resources in my TPT shop, along with many other fun phonics activities your students will love!
Looking for More Teaching Tips? Check Out These Posts!
- Phonics Games to Practice Blending Sounds
- Tips for Setting Up and Managing Small Groups in the Classroom
Save These Tips for Teaching Word Families
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