Using Word Families With Beginning Readers

Posted on September 14th, 2011 by Carolyn Hart in Teacher Resources

When working with children who are just beginning to sound out words, I have had great success using word families.

image of cover art for Fat Cat, a book for beginning readersFat Cat written by Sue Graves and illustrated by Jan Smith
A Fun With Phonics book published by Cartwheel Books, an imprint of Scholastic Books

Shortly after a child discovers that C -A -T spells cat, it can be enormously rewarding to introduce B-A-T amd M-A-T. Often a child’s eyes grow as big as saucers as he realizes the relationship between the three words. He makes a connection and sounding out BAT, CAT, FAT, HAT, MAT, PAT, RAT and SAT is not nearly as difficult as he originally thought. Soon he has eight new words to be proud of (rather than just one).

image of cover art for Dog in the Fog, a book for beginning readersThere have been many, many books written that focus on word families. A search of “Fat Cat” might produce a dozen or more results. I’m delighted to let you know about a series that combines word families, spinning word wheels, picture clues and early reader books. The word wheels are sturdy and easy to spin. They each create eight words: the wheel for
image of cover art for Bug in a Rug, a book for beginning readers Bug in a Rug produces bug, hug, dug, jug, mug, pug, tug and rug.

Beginning readers will need some help decoding the story but will find the illustrations helpful and will soon notice that the word family words are printed using red ink. if ‘reading’ with an older family member, the child could be asked to ‘read just the red words’ until familiar with the vocabulary. Good fun and a helpful resource for those who are just learning about word families and beginning to read.

image of cover art for Jen the Hen, a book for beginning readers

Fat Cat at | Fat Cat at

Jen The Hen at | Jen the Hen at

Dog In The Fog at | Dog in the Fog at

Bug In A Rug at | Bug in a Rug at

image of How to Make Word Family Flip BooksOn the Storytime Standouts Word Families page we include Word Family Flip Books for short vowel word families. Print the pages and cut out the individual letters. Cut out the larger rectangle along the lines. Make a pile of letters (check that they are all the right way up) and staple them to the left of the word ending. Encourage your beginning reader to ‘build’ on her knowledge that C-A-T spells CAT by flipping the letters and substituting the consonant. She’ll create many more words and feel a thrill of success.

Our Word Families page also has several word family printables that show the words with pictures. These are great for beginning readers in Kindergarten and Grade One.

Our early learning printables, including our word family printables are in PDF format, if you don’t already use Adobe Reader, you will need to download it to access the word family printables.

Some of our printables for beginning readers are available to Storytime Standouts members only. To become a member of the website, please click on the “Members” tab and register as a user.

You will find our selection of free printable alphabets here and all of our early learning printables here.

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