They’re so much fun to teach and so valuable to students. Students start with rhymes and phonological awareness. Moving to the written word with word families is logical. 25 years ago I taught students with learning disabilities, and I used Merrill Linguistic Reading Program. It was based on word families and sight words. I loved it. Then, 10 years later I went to a workshop with FOUNTAS AND PINNELL!!! Not about Fountas and Pinnell, but with Fountas and Pinnell. Yes, I was freaking out then…and it’s still a rush now. They were premiering their Phonics Lessons sets. They were the first to tell me about “If you know, then you know…” It was kinda genius. Following their lead, my students built the word family one picture at a time. “If you know can, then you know man. If you know can, then you know fan. If you know can, then you know van. If you know can, then you know pan. If you know can, then you know ran.” Students can see the words and the pictures. This was the start of my Word Family love affair.
Here are some activities for word families.
Calendar Time is Word Family TimeDuring Calendar time we have a Smart Board activity. The first word family slide contains the family and 5 cvc words. I use stoplight writing to help the students hear the sounds. This procedure has a green line for the beginning sound, a yellow line for the middle or vowel sound, and a red line for the final sound. (If you’d like a full explanation of Stoplight Writing, click the link HERE.) The second slide contains a "FIRST GRADE" word. Students love figuring out the "FIRST GRADE" word. These words typically have a blend or digraph at the beginning. These words are practiced daily. Monday, the teacher emphasizes the sounds and does all the writing. Tuesday – Friday, the students take control. The students quickly complete the activity during the calendar time, taking turns filling in chunks or individual letters.
Calendar Time becomes Center TimeThe following week, the word family moves to a center. This can be an ABC center or a specific word family center. During this week, students are given colored papers with a word family picture on each. Students choose a card, color a corresponding paper, and write the word family word. Then students choose one word to write in a sentence. I found this original activity at www.mrsleeskinderkids.blogspot.com and I love it!
Word Family Color CardsStudents can take a color strip and
- write stories using the word family words.
- put the words in ABC order.
- write and illustrate the words.
- write the words using red and black letters for vowels and consonants.
Crossing PuzzlesI have also seen this activity called "Magic Squares." This activity can be done on a sheet or with letter tiles and pictures. The worksheet is straight forward. However, using the letter tiles in conjunction with the paper can allow students a hands-on activity to create the cross and the accountability of the written paper. Students take word family pictures and letter tiles to make a puzzle. The words cross with the vowels. Students can also have S-T-R-E-T-C-H words that include blends and digraphs. When students have created the puzzles, they can record their words on the sheet.
Word Family Cube - Roll, Write, IllustrateStudents LOVE rolling dice. Why not add a word family to the dice. Students can roll, write, and illustrate. For a variation, students can have a graph with the 6 word family words. When they roll the dice, they write the word on the graph. Students roll until one of the graphs reaches the top, making a word family winner. Students can then write sentences with the winning word.
Word Families - The Perfect ConnectionJust like Fountas & Pinnell said all those years ago, the "If you know, it helps you know..." is the perfect connection for emergent readers.
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