How to Help Students Discover Patterns in Words with Word Families

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One of my favorite (and most impactful) things to work on with young readers and writers is word families.

What are word families? A word family is a group of words with a common feature or pattern.

For example… cat, rat, mat, and bat all belong to the -at family because they follow the same pattern.

You’ve likely heard of these before, but if you’re like I was just a few years ago then you’re wondering the best ways to teach word families. Well you’re in luck friend! Today I’m going to share how we work with word families over the course of a week in my Kindergarten classroom!

On Monday of each week I introduce our new word family and have students share what letters make up the pattern we are focusing on. We practice identifying the sounds in the pattern and blending them together.

Some years I have my students share out words they know that fit the pattern of the week and some years (like this year) I display an alphabet strip on our interactive flat panel and pull down letters into sound boxes. We practice identifying the sound that letter spells followed by our word family and then blend them together (think onset rime).

We identify if the word we made is a real word or a “silly” word and add the real words to an anchor chart.

Some years we can get through this routine in a day and some years I break this up into 2 days.

Next up (usually Wednesday) we practice building words with our word family pattern using either magnetic letters or letter cards. I love this because its hands on but also helps to reinforce the pattern and students quickly realize they are using the same ending letters for every word.

Thursdays I love to have them practice writing words from our word family on white boards. I use this time as a quick assessment of how things are going and to reinforce correct letter formation.

After several days diving into our word family, it’s time to release responsibility to the students! Each week during our last 2 days of centers (what my students work on while I pull small groups), I include a word family craft for students to complete.

I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE these because they each include cutting (hello fine motor practice!), allow students to either pick words from our anchor chart or challenge students to come up with other words including the pattern that didn’t get added to our chart, and they follow a predictable pattern.

This is super important because I don’t have to spend a ton of time teaching this center each week. I teach my students that the first thing they always do is illustrate and label their words, then they can cut and glue, followed by coloring. Students thrive with routine and that’s part of what makes this center do darn successful!

Another cool feature of these word family crafts is that you can print everything onto colored paper OR use the tracers printed on card stock and reuse these every year. I can prep these so quickly because I just need to pop some colored paper and the tracers at center and students are ready to go!

Imagine how prepared you’d feel to have one center for the entire year at your fingertips! What would you do with that extra time you save from planning and prepping? Grab your set of word family crafts right here.


  1. love this bundle. My Kinders can’t wait for Wednesday and Thursday because they get to do the word family craft. So much fun. And so little work for me is a big bonus.

    1. Charlene,

      I love to hear that!!! That’s when we do our craft as well and it’s such a relief knowing that center is always planned and takes such little time to prep!

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