How I teach Word Families at home

I did a lot of Word Family practice with Kai between the age of 4-4.5 years old. Since I don’t use worksheets with him, I incorporated many hands-on activities actives to help Kai recognize that words can be simplified into chunks, and by learning different chunks, he can actually read many words with the same pattern.  

Word Families

I’m here to answer some common questions about Word Families that parents might have.

When are Word Families introduced at school?

 In a typical school setting, Word Families are introduced in Grade 1 (ages 6-7), and continued until Grade 2. I did not teach Word Families in Grade 3, but instead incorporate a spelling program. In hindsight, I think a child could still benefit from doing Word Families practice in the third grade.  

Why is teaching Word Families important?

Word families are important because they are a group of words that have a predictable pattern. The idea is that once a child learns the ‘chunk’ they can use prior knowledge to decode new words with similar patterns. For example, the -ink family can be paired with the consonants p, s, m, r, and once they are familiar with one, they can read the rest of the combinations… Children pick up the repetition quickly.

When Word Families be introduced at home?

 You can introduce Word Families soon after your child learns to blend CVC words. (consonant-vowel-consonant) 

You can teach CVC words with short vowels in this order:  

Short a -at, -an, -ap
Short e -et, -en, -ed
Short i -it, -in
Short o-op, -ot
Short u-up, -ut
Short vowel CVC words

As you can see, all of these are Word Families, but you don’t need to focus on Word Families initially. Instead, make sure your child can blend all the cvc words first.

Here is a video of my younger child Kei, blending at around 3 years 3 months:

Here are some words that can be taught using the short vowels listed in the table above:

Short a cat ran cap
fat ban lap
mat van nap
Short emet pen fed
jet ten wed
bet men red
Short ifit pin
wit bin
Short otop cot
pop dot
Short ujug hut
mug nut

These were what I taught Kei (3 years 2 months) initially, just to focus on the blending of short a (all in blue), short i (pink), short u (white), short e (green) and short o (yellow). I didn’t introduce any Word Families at that time.

Notice that I choose a variety of consonants for my CVC words in order for my child to practice blending the consonants and vowels. Once they can blend these comfortably, you can then list out more words under each Word Family:

For example:

-at: cat, mat, fat, hat, rat, pat, sat, bat

Are there ‘easier’ Word Families and ‘harder’ Word families? Which ones to teach first?

 As mentioned earlier, most children start with easier ‘chunks’ such as -ap, -at, -et, -ip, -ot, -ug since they all involve short vowels.  

The trickier Word Families that I introduced later are ones with long vowels and Magic c (or silent e)

 -ape, -ace, -eet, -ice, -oon, -ute

There are still tricker ones with two vowels, and other letters:   

  • ail, -at, -eat, -eam, -oat, -oy
  • igh, -isn, -wh, ought

Here is a list of the Word Families to consider when teaching.  

What kind of activities would support the teaching of Word Families? 

We did a lot of different activities to reinforce Kai’s knowledge of Word families. None are worksheets based.  

You can browse the videos below:

Are there any apps or websites that support Word Families practice? 

I don’t think it’s necessary to purchase apps, but here is one that I have:

This is a paid app called

ABITALK Phonics Word Family

I also use this part of the Starfalls website (link here)

What should be taught next after Word Families?

You may actually introduce sight words at the same time that you are teaching Word Families. This way, your child should have enough vocabulary to start reading decodable books such as the one below:

And how would you teach spelling using WORD FAMILIES?

Kai is now 6 years old and can read all of his Word Families words. For writing, I’ve gotten him to do this as part of our SPELLING routines at home. A quick video here:

I’d love to connect! Do reach out if you have any questions!

Published by Ms Claudia L. Kimura

Apple Distinguished Educator, Class of 2015 Primary school teacher, technology coordinator Not just a regular mom, but a teacher-mom Mom of 2 boys, stepmom of 3 boys

3 thoughts on “How I teach Word Families at home

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