Word Family Skills Take Off!

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Students will be able to blend and segment onsets and rimes of single-syllable spoken words.

Big Idea

Sorting word families helps students categorize words as same or different by onset and rime.


10 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 seated on their dot in the rug area I tell the students we are going to watch a short song on the SMARTBoard. I play Word Families, by Dr. Jean Feldman from her album Totally Reading.

Once the video is over I sit down and ask the students to come up with one word from the video that they remember.

“Can anyone tell me one word they recall form the song we just watched on the SMARTBoard.”

I select each student to give me a word so they all feel as if they have contributed to the conversation.

“Well done everyone coming up with a word family word. I like how some of you used words from the same family and some of you selected to use words from different word families. You will need to use those skills when it comes time for integrated work stations.”


 I use this song because it has lots of word families in it and models nicely how simply changing the first letter can make a new word. The song also models nicely how to say the beginning sound and the ending rime. This will help the students later on when they are doing the activity part of the lesson. 


45 minutes

“Today’s book is called See How They Go: Airplane, published by DK Publishing. Looking at the cover can someone tell me what type of book they think this book will be?”

I select a student who is following the correct classroom protocol of raising their hand.

“I agree Adam; I think this book will be non-fiction or real. Adam, why do you think this book is non-fiction?”

I allow Adam to express the reasons he thinks this book is non-fiction and then I repeat what he says if it is accurate. If not, I would choose another student to express their opinion so students who are still formulating the ability to tell a non-fiction book from a fictional book will have accurate information to draw from.

“Adam says he thinks the book is non-fiction because it has a real picture on the front and is like the DK book we have about different kinds of transportation in our book area. Those are good reasons.”

“If this truly is a non-fiction book, what should I find inside?”

I select enough students to cover all the other non-fictional book features. Features such as; labels, pop-out words, table of contents, index, glossary, etc.

“Those were all good features. Let’s open the book and check for the signs you all mentioned to see if this is a non-fiction book.”

We go through the book on a brief picture walk checking to see the text features.

“Looks like you were all right it is a non-fiction book. Let’s go ahead and read.”


During reading I go over some of the vocabulary words as we come across them within the text. We review the meanings of words we have heard from previous texts; words such as engine, coach, etc, and explore new words such as; propeller, aviator, propulsion, etc.


After reading I tell the students, “Now that we have finished reading I want to go back to the song we listened to before we read the book. During the song we heard lots of different word families being mentioned.”
“Can anyone remind me of one of the word families?”

I actually allow several students to respond to this request as I want to cover a few word families to jog students’ memories and build some background knowledge.

“Great memory team. Today at one of your integrated work stations you are going to find multiple runways. At the top of each runway there is a sign with a word family rime on it (I hold up one for the students to see). Can anyone tell me the word family rime on this runway?”

N.B. The materials for this lesson can be found in the Transportation:Up Down All Around All the Way to Town unit created by the Kindergarten Kiosk team. I printed out the materials and then laminated them for durability.  

I select a student following classroom protocol with their hand raised.

“That’s right Clarissa; this runway is labeled with the –et word family rime.”

“In the sky (I hold up a box which is decorated with clouds) there are lots of planes circling. It will be your job as air traffic controllers to “guide” the planes onto the right runway.”

I pull a random plane out of the “sky” and ask the students, “Is this plane allowed to land on my runway?”

I allow the students to chant out the response, “No!”

“Can anyone tell me why not?”

This time I select a student with their hand raised to explain to me why this plane cannot “land” on my runway.

“You are right Helen; this plane cannot land on my runway because it is not an –et word family member. Which word family does this plane belong to?”

I select a student to respond.

“Nice one Will; this plane does belong to the –un word family. It belongs to the –un word family because my plane says “run.””

“It will be your group’s job to sort all of the planes and “land” them on the correct runways. Once all of your planes have “landed” you can make them take-off back into the sky and do it again if there is time.”

“Does anyone have any questions?”


Once I feel the group has a good grasp of the instructions 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 flying word family 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.”


Allow the students 15 minutes to work on this activity. Set a visual timer and remind the students to look at the timer so they will use their time wisely.


Importance of word families.


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.”

Students know to put completed work in the finished work bin. Any work that is not completed goes into the under construction bin and can be completed throughout the day whenever the student finds he/she has spare time or it will be completed during free choice center time.


Once the students are seated I tell them that their exit slip for today is to tell me one word family word.

“Boys and girls, your exit ticket today to get your snack is going to be tricky. I am going to use the fair sticks to select the order you will go to snack but here is the deal. The first person has the easy job of giving us a word family word. The next person has to either change the first sound to give us a new word, or change the ending rime to give us a new word. Let me give you an example. Say I pull out Rachel’s stick. She says, “Bat.” Then I pull out Finnley’s stick. He could say, “Bet” changing the word family rime, or he could say, “Hat” changing the beginning sound, the onset.”

“Does everyone get it?”

“Okay here we go.”

I use the fair sticks to select the order of the students. 

Once a student has told me successfully met the challenge, they are able to use the hand sanitizer and go to get their snack. If a student is unable to give me a word, they know they can do one of two things.

  1. They can ask a friend to help, or
  2. They can wait until everyone else has gone and then we will work together on coming up with a word that meets the challenge. 

This exit ticket activity is a quick assessment tool which allows me to see if the students are able to transfer the skill they just practiced during the activity to the new activity. I take note of which students are more comfortable changing the onset (beginning) sound and those that prefer the challenge of changing the rime sound. I also take note of the student who give me a totally random word - these students will need extra word family work during guided reading time or our phonics lesson.  


This assignments assessment is really the exit ticket process. The reason for this is because during the activity the students are working together as teams to make sure the words are sorted into the correct location. As a team they can bounce ideas off one another and the higher performing students generally assist the lower performing students in making sure the planes "land" on the correct word family runway. The higher performing student model the activity for the lower performing student who begin to understand the process as they watch their peers at work.


Student who are having difficulty with the concept of word families or need some extra practice can practice on the computer at the Starfall.com website. i will direct them to use the word family lessons on the left hand side of the page. Once they feel a little more confident they can then move to the easy reader book in the center of the webpage.   


During guided reading work stations I can have the students use Word Family booklets from Mother Hubbard s website. The thing that I like about these books is that I can send them home with the student to practice at home. 


At one of the other stations students are making paper airplanes and then flying them from a starting line. We measure how far their plane went and recording the results. They are allowed to go back to the “hanger” and remake their plane to see if it will fly further as many times as they can until the timer goes off.


Plane subtraction; students have ten planes in their “hanger.” They turn over a flight card and it has a number on it. The student then flies that many planes away and records a number sentence to represent what they just did in their math journal. For example, 10 - 7 = 3. The student had 10 planes, turned over a plane card with the number seven on it, the student "flew" that many planes out of their hanger and then counted how many were left.