Word families are words that have common pattern or group of letters. For example, the “-at” family encompasses the words: hat, cat, bat, rat, pat, and more. There are also slightly more challenging word families such as “-ack” with back, rack, pack, black, attack.
Being able to quickly see and understand the sounds “at” and “ack” make will make sounding out many words much quicker and easier for beginning readers.
The National Council of Teachers of English has identified 37 word families. Teaching children word families is a great way to give them tools to recognize words and sounds both when reading and writing. Once children are able to identify the sounds each letter makes on their own, they can begin learning how letters work together to make sounds.
There are plenty of fun word family activities to make learning fun, engaging, and memorable.
Also, Enchanted Learning has a great giant list of word families for reference.
Teaching word families can be as simple as creating lists of words within word family. Children can work to think of their own words that fit in various word families. There are also plenty of fun creative ways to introduce word families to young children.
Fun Word Family Activities:
Word Family Houses
Cut a long rectangle, and snip the top into a triangle. Then fold the bottom portion in half. Now you have a house. Each house is home to a particular word family. I wrote out some words to go in each house, and then the kids had to sort them out into their homes.
They also had fun decorating the houses.
Word Family Flowers
Cut a circle and several flower petals. On the circle, the center of the flower, write a word family—“at” or “up” and then on the petals write words that go with those word families. Let the kids sort the petals to make flower and glue them onto a piece of paper.
Word Family Ice Cream Cones
Write word family names on brown construction paper ice cream cones. Then write several words to go with each on colorful scoops of ice cream. Let the kids assemble the ice cream cones.
Word Family Clouds with Rain Drops
Cut a cloud out of white or grey paper. Then cut blue rain drops. Write some word families on the clouds and some words to go with each on the rain drops. Use, string or yarn and tape to attach the rain drops to the cloud so it looks like rain falling.
Pass the Paper Word Family
No cutting required for this simple activity. Just write a word family at the top of a piece of paper. Then each person can write a word that goes in the word family and pass it to the next person. See how many words you can think of together.
Tiny Word Books
This is super simple and requires almost no preparation (as opposed to the above ideas), but it was really effective with my kiddos. Cut some tiny rectangles in different colors. Write a word family at the top. Then let your child make a list of words in that word family. Bind them together at the top. We worked on this several mornings in a row, doing just one or two word families at a time.