Reading and writing in the early elementary school grades can be difficult for students, but when teachers use word families to provide familiarity during learning, the process is easier. Word families are sets of words with the same ending chunk. For example, cat, hat, bat, sat and rat are all members of the "at" family. Teaching children to read and spell the ending chunk increases their ability to read and write new words.
Provide a baggie of letter tiles to each child. You can purchase these at a teacher supply store, but making your own from paper is simple and cost efficient. Say the ending chunk, such as "an," and have students manipulate the tiles to form the chunk. Write the chunk on a piece of chart paper. Then have students add a beginning sound to make new words like "fan," "can," "ran," "tan" or "man." As they make their words, monitor and assist as needed. Add each new word to the chart paper to create a word family list. Complete this activity several times with various word families.
Word Family Book
Create word family books using paper and crayons. Fold a sheet of paper into fourths, cutting apart the pieces. Have students write a title, such as "My _ot Book" on the first page. On each additional page they should write a word from the word family. Some words might include "hot," "cot," "dot" or "pot." Staple the pages together, and have them illustrate each page using their crayons. Then read the books to a partner, or take them home to read them to families.
Word Family Writing
Select a word family or allow students to select their own word family from those introduced in class. Ask younger children to write a sentence such as, "My dog sat on a log," using two of the chosen words. More advanced learners can create poems using several words, making the final word of each line a member of the word family. An example would be, "I have a cat. He chased a rat. He fell on the mat. So the cat just sat." Once they have completed the written portion, have them illustrate their work and display the writing in the hall.
Word Family Art
Several art projects can be made using word families. At Thanksgiving, choose an ending chunk and write it on a turkey. Have children write words from the word family on feathers, and attach them to the turkey with glue. You can use this same activity at various times of the year by adding petals to a flower in spring, colorful leaves to branches in the fall, or ornaments to a tree during the holidays. Use the art projects to create an enjoyable and academic bulletin board display.
Billie Wager has been a public school teacher since 1998. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in elementary education and Master of Arts in curriculum and instruction, both from Ottawa University. Wager is licensed to teach kindergarten through ninth grade in Kansas.