Words Have Families Too

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Students will be able to add or substitute individual sounds to a rime to make new words.

Big Idea

Change a letter – make a new word.


15 minutes

Gather students on the rug using a preferred classroom management technique. I like to use my “Stop, look, listen.” The students stop what they are doing, look at me and listen for the direction. I usually preface the direction with, “When I say go…” This reminds the students to listen to the whole direction before moving to follow the directive.

In this case I would say, “When I say go I would like you to clear your space, push in your chair and go take a spot on your dot. Walking feet go.” By saying walking feet I am reminding the students to use walking feet in the classroom to ensure safe movement between areas.

When all of the students are on the rug I tell them we are going to read a book about a famous American. “Today we are going to read a book about a famous American named Johnny Appleseed. Has anyone heard about Johnny Appleseed before?”

If there is a student who has I ask them to share the information they have. I may do this with two or three students depending on the information shared. I do not want to have too many students share as I do not want to lose my audiences focus.

“This book is simply called Johnny Appleseed. It is written by Jodie Shepherd and illustrated by Masumi Furukawa.” There are many different versions of this tale. I like this one because of the simplicity of the illustrations and the rhyme the author uses to show the passage of time.


During reading we discuss vocabulary words that we come across. Words like injured, settlers, etc.

We also discuss the type of person he is and refer to the text to reinforce our ideas. “I agree with you Stanley I think Johnny Appleseed is a kind person. Why do you think he is kind?”

“Yes helping the injured deer is a kind thing to do.”  


30 minutes

Once the story is over I ask the students, ‘What was it that Johnny Appleseed liked to wear on his head?”

“Yes that’s right he wore a pot on his head. At one of the stations today you are going to make a pot that you can wear on your head. Our pot will be different though because it will be decorated with words. All of these words will have one thing in common – they will all end with the letters o t. Who thinks they can tell me what sound those two letters make together?”

I usually find I have one student who can tap out the sounds and blend them together to get the /ot/ sound. If not, I would model the process to the students.

“Yes that’s right Emily. O and t together make the /ot/ sound. Now if I put the letter p, which makes what sound, (pause to let students give you the sound) in front of the /ot/ sound what word do I get?”

Once again I usually find I have at least one student who can put the sounds together to make the word “pot.”

“Very good Owen I do get the word pot.”

At this point I open up the SMARTBoard screen behind me to begin writing student responses down.

I sound out the word pot as I write it. “/P/ /o/ /t/ pot.”

“Now what would happen if I took away the /p/ sound and put the /d/ sound in front? What word do I have now?”

“Great Rachel. I have the word dot. What letter represents the /d/ sound?”

“Right Mark, it is the letter d.” Once again I sound it out as I write it on the board.

“What about if I changed the letter d to the letter n?”

By now many students are beginning to get the idea and I go through a few more examples – cot, hot.

Then I start to add in cl, sl, sh, bl, tr, etc. When making the words “shot” and “slot” I make sure to point out how the words are very similar, so we have to take care in noticing the one difference between the words. Sometimes we will create a word the students do not know, for example trot. In that case we discuss the word meaning. “Trot is one way that a horse moves. It is faster than a walk, but slower than a gallop.” For the students entertainment I will sometimes demonstrate.


Once I feel the students understand the concept of what is being asked of them I prepare to send them over to the work station tables where they will find pencils, crayons, the pot shaped paper and a writing strip to be stapled onto the pot like a headband. “At the work station you will find the materials you need to make your pot hat. I suggest you cut it out and write the words BEFORE you attach it to your headband.”

I tell the students that I will leave the screen up for them to come over and use as a resource if they need help spelling one of the –ot words we came up with. I tell the students they will need at least five (5) –ot words on their pot before they can wear it.

“What is another way I can make my –ot words?”

“That’s right Louise I can tap out the sounds and represent each sound with a letter.”

“What is another resource I can use?”

“Yes Logan I can use my friends or the grown-up at the table. That is a great resource to use.”


“When you get to the work station what is the first thing you will do?” Hopefully someone will remember the first thing they need to do is write their name somewhere on their paper or better yet the headband.


Now I send the students over one table group at a time to maintain a safe and orderly classroom. It usually sounds like this;

“Table number one go have some fun.

Table number two, you know what to do.

Table number three, hope you were listening to me, and

Table number four, you shouldn’t be here anymore.”


Give the students about 15 minutes to get this assignment done. Remind the students they can look at the visual timer to check how much time they have left. 


10 minutes

When the time is up I blow two short blasts on my whistle and use the “Stop, look listen” technique mentioned above. “When I say go, I would like you to clean up your space remembering to take care of our things, push in your chair, and use walking feet to go and take a spot on your dot.”

I remind students to put their completed work in the “completed work” bin and those that are not complete go into the “under construction” bin. Students with hats on

Once everyone is seated on their spot I tell the students that their “exit slip” to get their snack is to tell me an –ot word family word. They will need to tap out each sound for me and then tell me the word as a whole. 


10 minutes

Call the each student over during a time which fits into your classroom schedule. I call my students over to work with me during free choice centers time or at integrated work station time (only if I have enough parent volunteers and I am not working a station myself).

 Point to the –ot word family paper on the table and tell the student, “These two letters make the –ot sound. Listen /o/ /t/ -ot. Can you please add a letter to the beginning of this sound to make a word?” ot Word Family Assessment

I have higher functioning students write the words themselves directly onto the paper.

With students who have difficulty writing, I have them verbally tell me the words and then I write their responses. Sometimes I have the students try and write the words on dry erase boards just to see what they can do.  

Once he/she has made one word I would ask the student to change the beginning sound to make another word. “Can you please change the first letter to make a new –ot word?”


Write to complete the prompt, “If I walked across America I would…”  


Make a little Johnny Appleseed book. For example we make the book Thank You Johnny Appleseed from Scholastic


You could also reinforce this lesson the next day by having the students put together the –ot word family wheel from the book Turn to Learn Word Family Wheels  ISBN – 13: 9780590643764