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A Week of Word Families

My biggest rookie teacher mistake was not spending enough time teaching word families at the beginning of first grade.

I thought we were doing fine without it, but after Christmas I started noticing gaps in my students' reading abilities.

Words that should have been “easy peasy” were still taking us a while to sound out (I'm talking each….individual….sound…..).

I learned the hard way that word families are a HUGE part of building a foundation for emergent readers!

I made one big change that I feel is already making a huge difference! I set aside the first six weeks of school to focus heavily on word families. 

I follow the same routines every day and I just change up the word family. For example, if we were studying short a, I would do at, an, ap, ad, am (one per day).

Warm Up: Generate words and Create an Anchor Chart with Word Family Sound Cards

To kick off our phonics lesson, we generate a word list for our new word family.

My students ALWAYS surprise me with the different and amazing types of words they come up with.

For example, today our class practiced the -og word family. A students suggested “slog”, I was hesitant to write it BUT, it turns out, slog is actually a word!

We hang our word lists around the room.

By Friday, we have four word family lists that students can reference throughout the week!

What I really love about the word family flag in the corner of the poster is that they are SUPER EASY to tape on the chart and take off when its time to “retire” the poster.

If you are anything like me, you are a fan of cute and functional!


Hands On: Build words using Word Family Spelling Lists

Sometimes it can be really hard to generate words. 

That's why I created this word lists! 

They are sorted by word family and are SUPER helpful during word generation! 

After we use them whole group, to generate the word list, then we go back to our desk and practice building words with our alphabet letters. 

Build “cat”, change it to “bat”, change it to “sat” and so on…

Students also use them in the spelling/word work station to build words with the pattern of the week. 

I LOVE things that I can use in multiple ways! 

Independent Practice: Build a Word Activity Worksheets

Directly after our mini lesson (like how I keep saying “directly after”? I try to keep it all as consistent as possible!!)…. Anyway….. At this point, we have practiced generating words with our word list, now we need to practice building, reading and writing those words. 

What I love about Build-A-Word with Word Families is that you can easily differentiate it.

Too hard? Complete as a class using the word list poster.

Too easy? Take away the poster and start encouraging your students to use two or three letter blends at the beginning of their words.

By building the word, then writing it three times, students are getting LOTS of practice AND they are having fun exploring their different color options (that's my fun way of saying they get to give their brain a little break by “playing” with their crayons and markers).

What I also love is that you CAN use alphabet letters with this worksheet, but you DON”T HAVE TO. There are so many possibilities! 

Writing: Writing with Word Families

By this point in the day, students have already practiced reading, generating and building word families. One thing I have really noticed in my previous classes is that those skills sometimes do not translate into student writing. For that reason, I created my Writing with Word Families resource.

Students must:

  • read the word family word
  • trace the word family word
  • write a sentence using the word family word
  • illustrate the sentence


My students receive the “booklet” on Monday. I let them work through the sentences at their own pace. My only requirement is that every word MUST have a GOOD sentence for every word by Friday. (If they rush through and do not meet my standards, they are asked to re-write the sentence.)


One reason this has really worked in my class so far is that students are in charge of and responsible for their own writing. If a student gets “blocked” and can't think of a good sentence, I tell them to illustrate it first, then describe their illustration with a sentence.


A second great benefit I have found is that I can read through the booklets at the end of the week and make a quick list of writing mini-lessons that I want to cover the next week. We started as generic as “what to do when your sentence is too long and needs to go to the second line”. We have also covered “sounding out” our words using Leach Literacy Training's Writer's Gum. Seriously guys, if you have not heard of Writer's Gum, you need to read it {here}, right now!!

Stations: Word Family Sorting Station 

Word Family Stations. The easiest part of the word family framework. Just click, print, laminate and you are good to go. Here are a few ways that I've used them:

  • Early Finisher Station
  • Friday “Game Day” Station
  • Small Group Instruction
  • RTI/Tutoring Groups

Want to beef it up a little? Have students:

  • sort them into the different families (an, at, ag)
  • write a sentence using one word
  • write a story using as many of the words as possible
  • turn all letter cards over and play a memory game to make the different words

Disclaimer: These are only available in short vowel (CVC).

Done For You Word Family Resources

All of the routines you read about in this post can be done absolutely free..

But if you are anything like me and start to think “man, I wish all of this stuff was already done for me”….

Then this is the perfect opportunity for you.

Ramona K.
Read More
This is a fantastic collection of reading resources to use during guided reading groups! Some of my first graders are still working on phonics skills that will help them read fluently. I love this set!
A Week of Word Families

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Kristen Sullins

Kristen Sullins

I am a current Elementary Librarian and
Enrichment Teacher, mother of two, follower of Christ and Texas native. In my own classroom, I love to save time by finding unique ways to integrate writing, social studies and science into all parts of my day. I also love all things organization!