I am a true believer in the power of FAMILY...specifically Word Families. In my own classroom, it's an essential part of my Daily 5 Word Work.
Word families, or some people call them chunks (families is just so much more friendly sounding to me but to each their own), help readers look for patterns when decoding. When your students recognize those patterns, they can more easily sound out words they don't readily know.
It is always amazing to watch when a light suddenly turns on as a students starts decoding with the help of word families. I think they surprise themselves as much as they surprise us. I won't soon forget hearing one of my most struggling kinders this year, yell across the room at me in the middle of one of our first Ball Word Celebrations. "Hey Mrs. McGuire, I just read KitKat. Kit is part of the ~it family and Kat is part of the ~at family. I read that!!" Confidence, independence and joy...pure joy is what they experience when they 'get it.' So yes! I spend a ton of time practicing and using word families with my kinders.
After I feel that the majority of my students have mastered their letter sounds, I start introducing a new word family each week. When a new family is introduced, it goes on my word family wall (above my regular word wall, for quick, easy reference for my kinders and then another set on a ring goes in my writing center.)
We have a routine of whole group, small group, center and independent practice activities that allow my kinders to get plenty of practice and familiarity with the word families.
Here's kind of a typical schedule of some whole group activities I like to do:
Monday: Introduce word family words as a class and make words using letter placards. If at all possible, I like to give my kinders plenty of opportunities to move and this Is a great kinesthetic activity. By the way, if you don’t have any letter placards, you can get a FREE set HERE and learn how to put them together.
Tuesday: Mini Lesson-Use the picture cards from two or more sets of word families to sort (thumbs up thumbs down) whether the word is or isn’t part of that week’s word family. Hand the students a card and let them sort into a labeled pocket chart. (This can move to a Daily 5 station with a recording sheet.)
Wednesday: Mini-lesson-Students find all the ‘word family’ words hidden in my morning message. I have students come up and underline, circle with wikki stix, use a pointer or flyswatter to identify word family words.
Thursday: Mini-Lesson-I call out word family words that may or may not be part of that week’s word family. If it is, then students perform a specific physical act like standing up, raising an arm, lifting their right leg, waving hello…It feels like Simon Says because then can only perform the act IF the word is part of that week’s word family.
My goal for whole group mini-lessons like this is always to give my students a chance to move.
To support the whole group lessons, I provide extra practice for each new word family in small group and independent Daily 5 stations. I usually introduce these activities the first several weeks to my students in small group before placing them in my Daily 5 Word Work Station. But after I've introduced several word families, most students can use these independently.
Here’s a few activities that I choose from each week to allow for practice:
Say-It-Make It-Write It I like to use this with some of my small groups before it goes into a station so that I am sure that students understand the words and concept. I have enough copies of the playing mat laminated for each child in the group. I only use magnets for the ‘making’ part of this activity, and I hold onto the playing card until everyone has made the word and written it,
I open the card to show them the answer. Once this activity moves to a station, students can choose to ‘make’ the word with magnets, beads,
Play-doh stampers or whatever letter manipulative you would like to offer. Differentiating can be accomplished by giving your students choices. Here's one way to make that happen.
Memory Match: Played like traditional memory but students will match the picture card with the word card.
Sorting Word Families: Place the sorting picture cards in a bucket, a basket or even in your sensory table with some seasonal shredded paper, pasta or rice. Students can sort the pictures into canisters labeled with a thumbs up or a thumbs down, indicating whether they are part of that word family or not. You can also have them do this in a pocket chart or onto ropes hanging from your ceiling.
Be creative and make it fun. For students who need an additional challenge, have them record their findings on the word family sorting sheet.
Word Family Hide n’ Seek: This activity gives your students an opportunity to practice reading word family words while playing a fun interactive game. Place word family word cards in a small pocket chart. Behind one word card hide the picture above. Students then point at and read a word where they believe the picture is hidden. If they guess correctly, they get to hide the card next. You can use cards from more than one word family or just one word family. (You can find the playing piece in the ‘extras’ section at the end of this unit.
Write The Room For Word Families: Laminate, cut apart, and mount the write the room cards below with masking tape around your room. Based on your students readiness level, select a recording sheet for them to use. You may either laminate these (my preferred method) or print them off to use with a pencil if you prefer. Hand your student a clipboard and have them search the room for the word family pictures. I have my recording sheets differentiated so that students are adequately challenged but not frustrated because the task it too hard. One level just has them entering the onset for the rhyme, another level has them writing the entire word family word and yet another level has them writing the word in the context of a sentence.
Homework/Morning Work/Extra Practice I like to have the option of having something for students to take home for homework or just a little extra practice so I also provide some EXTRA differentiated printables including a differentiated word family slide, I-spy, word maze, Count, Graph and Write, and Say It-Make It-Write It sheets.
Once my students have a couple of word families under their belts, I can add a few more games and activities to extend their learning.
If you would like to see learn more about my word work, you can click on the picture below. I have a whole set of activities available (193 pages!!!) for letter ‘a’ and am working on completing the next vowel groups.
These sets are available as a bundle (6 weeks worth of Word Family Work in this set) or as individual units for you to pick and choose.