For a young child who is just starting to recognize that letters make sounds, that sounds form words, and that words have meaning, the English language can seem overwhelming and confusing. As a kindergarten teacher, one of the first things I taught my early-readers was to look for Word families, or “chunks,” within larger words to help them with their emerging decoding skills. Word families help young children quickly recognize phonemic patterns within words, allowing the child to read more fluently. In fact, once a child is familiar with the 37 most common word families, he or she can decode more than 500 words in the English language.
There are lots of ways to help children to learn and recognize word families, namely through rhyming games. One of my favorite games, and a favorite among both my students and my own kids, has been one that I made quickly and easily using a product that you can find just about anywhere this time of year.
The Easter Egg Word Family Game
Start by collecting some plastic Easter eggs. I used a dozen so I could keep them contained within a recycled egg carton.
On the taller side of each egg, write a word family “chunk.”
On the shorter side, write all the beginning sounds (a consonant or consonant blend, such as st or pl) that, together with the word family chunk, make words.
To play, attach the halves, lining up a beginning sound and ending chunk. Read the word with your child, emphasizing the two sounds that come together to form a single word, as in: “/m/ /op/…/mop/”
Then, twist the two halves so that a new beginning sound lines up with the ending chunk and read the new word: “/st/ /op/…/stop/”
This game is perfect for my preschooler. He knows his letter sounds and is just beginning to recognize chunks within words. This game is challenging without being frustrating for him. For my older son, who is a reader, this game is a bit too easy, so he came up with what he calls “The Challenge Round.” He mixes up two non-matching eggs and reads the resulting nonsense words, like “spump” and “thock.” Apparently it’s really funny if you’re a kindergartner.
To get you started, listed below are the 37 most common word family chunks. Pick your favorite dozen, and make your own Easter Egg Word Family Game!
–ab (cab, lab, blab, crab, flab, grab, scab, slab, stab)
–ack (back, pack, quack, rack, black, crack, shack, snack, stack, track)
–ag (bag, rag, tag, brag, flag)
–ail (fail, mail, jail, nail, pail, rail, sail, tail, snail, trail)
–ain (main, pain, rain, brain, chain, drain, grain, plain, Spain, sprain, stain, train)
–ake (bake, cake, fake, lake, make, quake, rake, take, wake, brake, flake, shake, snake)
–am (ham, Sam, clam, slam, swam)
–an (can, fan, man, pan, ran, tan, van, bran, plan, than)
–ank (bank, sank, yank, blank, crank, drank, thank)
–ap (cap, lap, map, nap, rap, tap, clap, flap, scrap, slap, snap, strap, trap, wrap)
–at (bat, cat, fat, hat, mat, rat, sat, brat, chat, flat, spat, that)
–ay (day, may, pay, say, clay, play, pray, spray, stay, tray)
–eed (feed, need, seed, weed, bleed, freed, greed, speed)
–ell (bell, fell, sell, tell, well, yell, shell, smell, spell, swell)
–est (best, guest, nest, pest, rest, test, vest, west, chest, crest)
–ew (dew, few, knew, new, blew, chew)
–ick (kick, lick, pick, quick, sick, brick, chick, click, stick, thick, trick)
–ight (knight, light, might, night, right, sight, tight, bright, flight, fright, slight)
–ill (fill, hill, pill, will, chill, drill, grill, skill, spill, thrill)
–in (bin, fin, pin, sin, win, chin, grin, shin, skin, spin, thin, twin)
–ine (fine, line, mine, nine, pine, vine, wine, shine, spine, whine)
–ing (king, ring, sing, wing, bring, cling, spring, sting, string, swing, thing)
–ink (link, pink, sink, wink, blink, drink, shrink, stink, think)
–ip (dip, hip, lip, rip, sip, tip, chip, clip, drip, flip, grip, ship, skip, strip, trip, whip)
–ob (knob, mob, rob, blob, slob, snob)
–ock (knock, lock, dock, rock, sock, block, clock, frock, shock, stock)
–op (cop, hop, mop, pop, top, chop, crop, drop, flop, plop, shop, stop)
–ore (bore, more, sore, tore, wore, chore, score, shore, snore, store)
–ot (got, dot, hot, knot, lot, not, plot, shot, spot)
–out (grout, scout, shout, spout, sprout)
–ow (cow, how, now, brow, chow, plow)
–uck (buck, duck, luck, cluck, stuck, truck)
–um (gum, hum, drum, plum, slum)
–unk (junk, chunk, drunk, shrunk, stunk, trunk)
–y (by, my, cry, dry, fly, fry, shy, sky, spy, try, why)
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This post was written by Sarah Harris exclusively for BonBon Break Media, LLC.