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 be 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! This past summer, our curriculum team sat down and took a look at our first grade ELAR scope and sequence. 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 solely on word families. 

This is what my schedule looks like:
Week 1- Review
Week 2- short a
Week 3- short e
Week 4- short i
Week 5- short o
Week 6- short u

Here's what a sample lesson plan looks like:


Phonetic Poems


I found these super cute phonics poems on Pinterest. We read one poem a day as our "mini-lesson" before we start our word family word work. The poems are easy for the students to read and predict/generate word family words. 

I write all of the word family words in color to really make them pop. You can see in the poem where I would write the first letter of the word then draw a line. As a class, we would predict/generate the word and I would write it in. We would end up reading the poem 5-6 times during our mini-lesson. 

These poems also offer a great opportunity for review at the end of the week. Before our spelling test, we read through all of our poems for the week to get in a little extra practice. The poems are also very fun to read so it gets the kids excited before test time!

Looking for poems? Just search for "at word family poem", etc. on Pinterest or Google! 

Word Lists


As the second part of our mini-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 easy!!

Word Study


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 practice reading words with our poem, we have practiced generating words with our word list, now we need to practice writing those words. I hang up our word list where it is easy for all students to see. Students go back to their desk (or grab a clipboard and word on the floor) and complete their word study. 

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). 

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 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

Love it and want to try it?


Get all of the resources for short vowels, long vowels and r-controlled vowels here: 




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