How to Teach Word Families in a Few EASY Steps

In my opinion, word walls are a must in a primary classroom BUT only if you teach kids how to use it. Word families are an important part of the word wall as well.  Teaching kids to read and spell words by learning patterns helps with retention and improves reading.  How do you get this information to stick? Read on to see how I teach word families in a way that kids remember them and refer to them in the classroom.

Learn how to teach word family words so that they stick - kids will learn to read and spell word families words if they are engaged in the process of building charts to use as anchor posters in the classroom.

In previous posts, I have shared about how I get started with a word wall at the start of the school year and how I teach difficult to read and spell rule breaker words. In my last post, I shared some daily routines to do with your word wall to make the words stick and get your students invested in using the word wall.

You can find Part 1 here: Getting Started with a Word Wall.

You can find Part 2 here: Teaching Rule Breaker Words Using a Word Wall

You can find Part 3 here: Simple Ways to Practice Word Wall Words Daily

Monday is always the day I introduce all of the new words for the week (usually 5).   Tuesday is usually the day of the week we work with our new word family for the week.   We use that time to build a pocket chart with our word family together and then create an anchor poster that will stay up in the classroom.

When we are building the words in the pocket chart I add a kinesthetic component. Students hold their hands up, facing out and make a fist.  When we say the initial sound or sounds they push the right hand out and then the left hand for the word family. When we blend together the onset and rime we push our fists together.  I find getting them moving while we do this increases engagement.

After we complete the pocket chart we create a poster that stays up as a reminder of our word building for that word family.  Students come up and write a word in the word family on the poster and the posters are displayed close to the word wall and are used as a reference for students.

Use a pocket chart to build each word family and the transfer the info to a word family poster to keep up in the classroom for reference

I start the year with short vowel word families and then move to long vowel word families.  I do not teach  Instead, I choose word families that are most common and we spend our time on those.

So for instance, when I have finished focusing on all the Short A word families we have a wrap-up activity to highlight the spelling patterns we did not cover.  We do a partner write activity.  I place all the remaining blank word family posters around the room and we do a SCOOT activity to add words to them with students working in pairs to add one new word family word to each poster.

Use the laminated word family posters and fill in word families with a partner or on your own as part of a literacy center

You should notice that at every single stage of my word family instruction the students are involved in the process.  Most everything that is placed on the walls in my classroom is created with students or by students.  The only way to get kids invested in using the resources in the classroom is to involve them in creating them or explicitly teaching them how to use them.

Are you looking for a digital version of this to use with your students?  It is now available in a Google Slides version

Short Vowel Word Family Google Slides

If you are interested in the posters you can find two different versions here:


My word family instruction continues during my Daily 5 instruction during word work.  While I am focusing on Short A in my word family instruction I am also providing centers to practice spelling, reading, recognizing and building Short A words.  These centers are very popular with my kids.

Use short vowel literacy centers that cover many of the short vowel word families to provide independent practice during literacy center time.

Don't forget to pin it!

Teaching word families is a great way to empower young readers to see that they can read lots of words. Having students build the words in each of the word families makes it a more meaningful way to create anchor charts that they will continue to use. Click to read about different ways to engage kids in learning to read and spell word family words.

Until next time,


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. Hi Vanessa, I saw your message and I am sorry I didn't get back to you right away. I try to teach a word family every week - sometimes more than one if it has the same short vowel sound - like AT and AN. I would not teach all the short vowel word family but some but then spend a few days working on other short vowel families during our word wall time.

  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  4. thank you! just what I need to hear .