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Word Families

June 14, 2010

After your child knows her letter sounds and can identify the beginning and ending sound in words, she is ready to work with the vowel sound in the middle. Introducing word families or patterns to your daughter will help build her reading and spelling vocabulary as she begins to see the patterns found in words.

Word families are words that have the same ending. For example, batsat,mathatfat are all words in the -at word family.

Prerequisites and Skills Covered in This Lesson



  • Practice with sorting
  • Practice with beginning sounds
  • Practice with ending sounds
  • Blending sounds

Word Family Activities

Word Family Flip Book


  • 3″ x 5″ card (B)
  • paper 3″ x 2 1⁄2″ or cut a 3″ by 5″ in half (A)
  • scissors
  • stapler
  • pencil

Making a flip book for your daughter is easy to do.

  1. Cut pieces of paper into 3″ x 2 12” (A) rectangles.
  2. Line up the cut pieces of paper (A) on the left edge of a 3″ x 5″ index card (B). Staple about 6 of these (A)‘s to (B). The staples should run parallel to the edge.Making the flip books with a 3″ x 5″ card for the base gives your daughter something firm to hold on to.
  3. Using with the word family -at. Write at on the 3″ x 5″ card (B).
  4. Write “c” on the smaller sheet of paper (A)toward the right edge. This will give your daughter room to hold the book without covering part of the letter and it will put both the beginning letter and the ending letters closer together, making it look more like a word.

    flip book for word family

  5. Your daughter can make suggestions for other beginning letters or you can have it all made up as a surprise for her.
    If six beginning letters are not enough and your daughter wants to add more to the flip book, it’s simple to staple more (A)‘s on top.

    flip book cat and hat

    Once your child has an opportunity to go through the book on her own, reading the words, she’ll want to make more.

  6. If you want to make more then one book at a time, try to have only one variable change. For instance: start with the endings -at-an and-ad. All have the same vowel and only the endings change.
  7. Start simple and get more complex with the endings.

Word Family Wheels


  • cardboard
  • pen/pencil
  • brad or fastener
  • compass
  • stickers to decorate the front (optional)
  1. Cut two large circles out of cardboard.  Using a compass, make one circle about 7 12” in diameter and the other 8 12” in diameter.If you don’t have a compass to make the circles, you can trace the outer rim of two different large bowls, one slightly bigger than the other.If you don’t have cardboard, consider using the cardboard from the inside of cereal boxes.

    word family wheels game

  2. Approximately a 12” from the edge of the smaller circle cut a square with a razor. Make it big enough to see a letter in, a 12” square works well.
  3. Write the word family ending to the right of the square. In our example we are using the word family -at.
  4. Line up the 2 circles and attach them with a brad (poke a hole through the center of both pieces of cardboard with a hammer and punch/nail or the end of a compass works really well).
  5. In the square, write a letter to make a word with the word ending.

    word wheel hat

  6. Move the second circle (the one in back) so you have a blank area again and write another letter.
  7. Continue doing it until all the combinations for that word ending is included.
  8. Explain to your child that all the words have the same ending.  Show her the wheel and let her try and figure out what the ending is.
  9. Then turn the wheel and show the beginning letter changes. See if she can sound out the beginning sound.
  10. Then have her try and blend the beginning sound with the word family.
  11. Once she understands that all the words have the same ending, she will have fun turning the wheel and figuring out what the next word will be.
  12. Your daughter can decorate the circle as long as the decorations don’t interfere with the words.

Word Family Sorts Cards


1. Using the word cards have your child start by sorting the words by first letter, then by the last letter.

sort cards by first letter

sort words by last letter

Does your daughter see any words that end with the same two letters?

Let her discover the middle letter and sort by the last two letters.

sort words by at word family

2. When she is done sorting by the last two letters, pull out one card from a word family to model the pattern.

For instance, pull out the card for mat, from the word family -at and tell her the word. Sound out the word together

/m/ /a/ /t/

Show her another card in the -at word family, for example sat. Ask her, “Can you tell me the difference between these 2 words?”

mat and sat

She should see that only the first letter has changed.

Now you can model what to do by saying, “Take the word mat, change the “m” and put an “s”, so it becomes s – at, sat”.

Have your daughter repeat the word.

Let her pick the next word to sound out. Help her if she looks in need but first pause to let her try.

Continue doing this through the rest of the word cards for the word family that you are working with.

Word Family Scramble


  • make individual letter cards or download ours (PDF)
  • Letter Holder

1. Choose words that your child is familiar with. Cut out letters that are in those words. Mix up the letters. Tell her the word she is trying to unscramble.

unscramble the word cat

2. For beginners, include only the letters for the word you want her to spell. For instance: if you want her to spell “cat” have her pull out only those letters. You may want to say, “Pull out one t, c and a.” That way you are not giving away what the word is.

start with the first sound

Or you can mix up the letters and ask her to spell the word for a four legged animal that says meow! She’ll have fun listening to your riddle and figuring out the clues.

3. When she is done with that word, say “Great. What would you need to do to the word cat to make it say hat?”

add the last sound and the middle sound

4. Have a few letters spread out in front of her, be sure that one of the letters is an h. If she is having trouble choosing the h. Point to and say the sound for each of the letters you put in front her. If she is still having trouble, again while pointing to each letter, try blending each of the beginning sounds with the word family ending slowly, until she can hear that the h is the letter she needs.

Download our file of the most common letters used in words (PDF) or make your own. If you are making your own letters and you want to use the letter holder, print the letter above the 1 12” fold.

The letter holder is helpful for children to keep track of the letters.

Word Family Review Die


  • Review Word Family Die (PDF)
  • blank – Review Word Family Die (PDF)
  • scissors
  • pen
  • tape

Make Die

  1. You can download the Review Word Family DiePDF with the word families of -un-ot-at-ap-eg, and -ig or download a blank die PDFand fill-in your own word families.
  2. word family die

  3. Cut on the dotted lines.
  4. Fold on the solid lines.
  5. Tape flaps to inside die when you can, some flaps will need to be taped on the outside.

Play Game

  1. Before you begin the game come up with a goal as to how many words for each word family you are going to try and get (three seems like a reasonable number). When you reach the goal, the game is over.
  2. Your child rolls the die.
  3. When the die lands on a word family, it is your child’s job to try and make a word for that word family.For example, if the word family is -un, she might come up with: funIf she is having trouble coming up with words, show her how to use the alphabet to come up with beginning sounds for words.Start with a – aun ? Does that make a word? No.How about b – bun ? Does that make a word? Yes.Next comes c – cun etc.
  4. Now it is your turn to roll the die and come up with a word.
  5. Remember, when you reach your goal, the games is over.
  • An alternate way to play: When your child rolls the die, she can try and make as many words as she can with that word family. For example, if the word family is -un, she might come up with: fun,sun, or stun.
  • To add more to the game you can take a piece of paper and fold it into six columns. Add the word families at the top of the columns and have your child write the words that you and she comes up with under the appropriate heading.

    make columns of the word families


Listen and observe your daughter, is she struggling with the letter sounds? If one word family is confusing her, have her play games and sort that ending before introducing another word family that is similar. For instance: if she is getting confused with -ig and -ip have her sort words, play games and become comfortable with those word families, before she goes on.

Word Family On-Line Resources

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