Why Word Families?....Part One

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). 


Come back next week to read Why Word Families?... Part Two to find out how I use: 

Writing with Word Families

Word Family Stations

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