If you’re a Kindergarten teacher, you know that teaching reading can be challenging. But fortunately, there are many tools and resources available to help. One of our favorite techniques is teaching word families for Kindergarten. In this post about word families kindergarten, we’ll give you the scoop on what word families are and why they are essential. We’ll explore how to use word families to teach reading in Kindergarten and give you lots of word families printables, FREE word families worksheets, and of course fun word families activities to get you started.
Word Families Kindergarten
How is reading going in your class right now? Is there anything more rewarding than seeing your students grow into successful readers? As a kindergarten or first-grade teacher, you have the privilege of helping your students as they start on their reading journey. You may even get to see that moment when reading clicks for them. It’s a fantastic process to witness and one that never gets old.
It’s beautiful to know that you’ve helped a child develop a lifelong love of reading. Every time one of my students learns to read fluently, it’s as if I’m seeing it for the first time. They light up with pride and excitement, and I can’t help but feel the same way.
Reading is one of the most critical skills a person can learn. That is why Kindergarten teachers spend a lot of time teaching reading skills. It is rewarding to see children learn how to read. But we know it doesn’t just happen. It takes a lot of planning and practice to be successful. Reading is a complex process, and many different skills must be mastered before a child can become an independent reader.
In reading, children must connect the written word and the sounds the combinations of letters make. Teaching with word families is one of the most successful strategies to help young students make that connection. Before we discuss how to do that, let’s quickly review the basics. What are word families, and why do they matter?
What Are Word Families?
In a nutshell, a word family is a group of words with the same ending. For example, the -at word family includes cat, hat, rat, bat, and mat. They provide a group of words with a predictable pattern known as chunks.
As the words have the same ending, they all rhyme.
Why Are Word Families Important?
When teaching phonics, one of our goals is to give children the tools they need to decode words. We want them to have a repertoire of strategies when encountering an unknown word. Teaching word families gives them an essential tool they can use as they progress.
As they learn word families, students begin to understand the basic sounds of letters and words. By focusing on the ending sounds of the word, children can quickly learn to read new words that share the same ending.
For example, once a child knows how to read the word ‘cat,’ they can easily read words like ‘hat,’ ‘mat,’ and ‘bat.’ This is because the ending sounds (‘at’) stay the same. Children only have to figure out the beginning sound as they already know what sound the letters AT make.
This ability to transfer sounds from word to word opens all kinds of language possibilities for young readers. Reading with word families makes decoding much faster and easier, building confidence and fluency. Experiencing this kind of success motivates children to read more.
When Should I Start Teaching Word Families?
There are two essential skills students must have mastered before they are ready to work with word families. These are Phonological Awareness and Letter/Sound fluency.
Phonological Awareness is Key For Mastering Word Families
Phonological awareness is hearing, identifying, and manipulating individual sounds, or phonemes, in spoken language. It is a critical skill for students to develop as it lays the foundation for word-level reading skills. Students need to be able to
- Hear and identify the beginning and ending sounds of simple words.
- Identify the individual sounds in a simple word read and blend them to read it.
- Understand the concept of rhyming, and be able to identify words that rhyme with each other.
Students need to be able to blend the sounds of a word together to be able to work with word families. They will only be able to do this if they know the sounds the letters make.
We introduce word families when BOTH of these skills have been acquired and not before. I cannot stress this enough. The last thing we want to do is introduce concepts and skills our students ARE NOT ready to tackle. The foundation MUST be in place first. Otherwise, word family activities will just be a frustrating experience. If your students need more preparation, go back to basics. You will find dozens of free resources in our archives to help. Just click on the links below to find them.
Take the time to build a solid foundation. You won’t regret it in the long run.
How To Teach Word Families
Now you know what word families are and why they are essential, it is time to move on to the fun bit. How do we actually teach word families to our students?
Start with CVC words.
Begin with one-word family at a time. Start with straightforward CVC (consonant-vowel-consonant) words. These are easy to break down and lend themselves to word family work. An example would be the AN word family that includes the following CVC words -ban, can, fan, man, pan, ran, tan, van.
Show and Enthuse
As a teacher, one of the best ways to help your students learn is to show them word families in action. This way, they can see how keeping the same ending and changing the first letter gives you a different word.
Create or buy a word family anchor chart, poster, or use magnetic letters as you shift things around.
It will also help if you intentionally work to get your students excited about word families and how much they will benefit from learning them. Use language that will excite your students and make them feel accomplished and confident when they see their success.
This means phrases like
- Hey! Look at all the new words you can read!
- I’m sure you can already read these words. Am I right? Show me how well you can read!
- Wow, you are doing so well with your reading. I can’t wait to tell your parents!
Word Families for Kindergarten
Keeping your students engaged is key to successful instruction. If they’re not engaged, you’ll be wasting your time. Look for activities that will keep them excited and involved in your teaching. Hands-on activities are the best way to do this. Your students will have so much fun they won’t even realize they are learning! At the bottom of this post, we have listed dozens of ideas and free resources. Make use of them!
Move From Group to Independent Work
Some teachers refer to this as the “I do, we do, you do” teaching model. This is how it works
- I do: is the teaching part of the exercise. It is when you SHOW the students how to do something.
- We do: Working together as a group on the same activity
- You do: Independent Practice
Provide Visual Reminders
As a teacher, one of the best things you can do for your students is to provide them with visual aids. Once you’ve introduced a word family, create or buy a visual reminder. This could be something like an anchor chart, poster, or word list that they can use.
A visual reminder they can use while they are working empowers students. It allows them to take control of their learning and gives them a sense of ownership over the material. Not to mention, it helps to reduce your workload as a teacher!
Use a Variety of Approaches
When introducing new material to a class, it is helpful to use various methods. This will ensure that all students have a chance to learn in the best way for them.
So, without further ado, here is our list of Word Family activities for Kindergarten.
Word Family Worksheets
Working on word families helps children learn to decode words. The next step is phonics! Learn how to teach phonics and grab some of our FREE phonics worksheets and hands-on activities too!
- Free-ab word family worksheets, printable ad word family worksheets, handy –ap Word Family Worksheets, cute –at word family worksheets with pictures
- -ed Word Family Worksheets, printable –eg Word Family Worksheets, free-en Word Family Worksheets for Kindergarten, –et word family worksheets practice pages, ee word family worksheets
- –ig word family worksheets for Kindergarten, –in word family worksheets, free ip word family printable worksheets, -it Word Family Worksheets for kids
- –og Word Family Worksheets to improve reading and spelling, op word family worksheets, free –ot word family worksheets and activities
- –ub Word Family Worksheets for fun practice, ug Word Family Worksheets, printable un word family worksheets
Word Family Activities
- Dab a Dot Mazes Word Family Worksheets or this Airplane Word Family Worksheets with Do a Dot Markers
- Cooking up Rhymes with Word Family Printables activity or this Lion Rhyming Word Family Activity
- Adorable Word Family Worksheets are a fun, NO PREP way for kids to practice!
- Flower Word Family Match or this bee rhyming words activity
- Get outside with this Sidewalk Word Family activity or this Word family Bump Game
- Help kids read word families with these clever Word Family Clip Cards printable
- We have Word Family Sliders with context clues or Transportation Word Family Sliders to learn blends.
- Ready. Set. Learn! These film strip themed word family printable are a clever visual for learning
- This Board Game helps kids practice “in” words or this Spring Bubble Word Family Sort
- ⛄ Snowman Word Family Printables activity
- 💗 Hershey Kiss Word Family Worksheets and chocolate kiss sorting word family activity
- 🌸 Cut-and-paste Spring flowers word family printable are a fun way to practice
- 🐥 Easter eggs word family activity and Easter Word Family Worksheets
- 🗽 Patriotic CVC Word
- 🎃Pumpkin Word Family Printables sliders or practice word patterns. Pumpkin pie word family activity
- 🦃 Spin and Cover turkey games for learning word families or this Turkey Word Family Feather Sort
- 🍁 Give the turkeys his feathers by sorting the turkey word family activities for early learner
- 🎄 Christmas Tree Word Family for Kindergarteners
- More word family activities