The Essential Guide to Teaching Word Families In Kindergarten

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.  

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?

how to teach word families

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

Read this post to learn more about phonological awareness

  • 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.

Letters/Sounds Fluency

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.

Introducing word families is an effective way to help children with their reading skills. Here we explain what they are, why they're essential, and how you can know when kids are ready to use them. Plus, we've got loads of activities for you to try out!

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 are an essential tool when it comes to reading. Here's how to use them in your Kindergarten classroom plus free printables, worksheets & activities

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.

Looking for a fun way to practice reading simple CVC Words to practice phonics skills? You will love this Plane Rhyming CVC Words activity. Simply grab a bingo dauber and the free do a dot printables in the pdf file and you are ready to read, rhyme, and dab word families. Preschool, pre-k, kindergarten, and first grade students will have fun practicing sounding out words with the letter sounds they've learned while listening for and seeing similar letter patterns in these words. carrot word family worksheets for kindergarten and grade 1 spring literacy activity FREE Lion Rhyming Activity - Young learners will love this silly, educational activity where they will practice rhyming cvc words, strengthen hand muscles, and even sneak in some threading to make a lion. This reading reading readiness activity is great for prek, kindergarten, and 1st grade students. Simply print FREE printable and let students use a hole puncher. #rhyming #cvcwords #kindergarten #prek #rhymingactivity #education Kindergartners will have fun cooking up rhymes with this CVC Word Family activity! Simply print the FREE printable rhyming worksheets, read, and use dot markers to find the matching rhyming short vowel sound.

Word Families Worksheets

  Bubble Word Families activity for kindergartners Help kids learn to identify rhyming word families to improve reading and spelling skills with this fun word family printable activity.  These free printable word family strips have pictures for kindergarteners and first grade students to sound out and spell.  Download pdf file with  rhyming families activity to improve fluency! Kindergarten word famiy printable to slide and read

Word Families Printables

turkey-word-families-sorting-activity-free free-snowman-word-family-spinners free-word-family-Christmas-trees FIll your basket with easter egg word families in this fun Easter activity for kindergarten.  In this easter egg activity pre-k, first grade, and kindergartners will sort the Easter eggs into baskets by figuring out the image and what word family it belongs to. Simply print pdf file with easter worksheet for kindergarten and you are ready to play and learn with this educational Easter activity for kids.

Word Families Activities

Get outside with this Sidewalk Word Family activity  Then use fun special holidays MUST be used for learning, right? Have fun learning word families with these seasonal word family activities:

Some other educational activities that are very closely related to word families are CVC Words Activities and Rhyming Words Activities