Thursday, April 30, 2009

5 Hands-On Word Families Activities

Learning word families is so powerful. Once kids learn even one common rime (word ending), they're suddenly able to build many new words. They simply add a different consonant or blend onset (word beginning) and then swap it out with another and another--voila! How motivating for beginning readers!

Because they are highly motivating and rely on the use of consistent patterns, word families activities are also ideal for English language learners or kids with special needs. Increase the engagement and effectiveness even more by making the activities tactile and kinesthetic. Here are a few ways to do just that:
  1. Word Family Bug Swat--Cut large bugs out of construction paper. (Better yet, have your students do this as part of an insect-themed unit.) Then, print various words on the bugs or just the rimes. Have students use a Word Swatter to hit the words that belong in a word family that another student calls out. Or, you can tape a consonant on the opposite side of the swatter and have kids swat a rime that makes a word when combined with the letter on the swatter. Don't have a fancy Word Swatter? Just take a pair of scissors to any old (but very clean!) fly swatter.

  2. Carnival Toss--Same as #3 except use bean bags that kids toss into hula hoops that are placed on the floor. (A great way to recycle hula hoops--seriously, have you ever tried to cram one into a recycling bin? BOING...ouch!!!)

  3. Realia Sort--For practice of multiple word families, bring to class several objects whose names are in the same word family. For example, for the AT word family, bring in a plush cat, plastic mat, baseball bat, rubber rat, and an old hat. For AN, bring in a can of food, paper fan, saute pan, and an action figure man. (Hey, this is where you put to use those little garage sale purchases. Yeah, there really was a good reason why you dug through all those "anything for $.25" boxes of junk over the years!) Have kids work together to sort the objects by word family. Kids love trying to figure out the name of each item, and they really have to put their oral skills to use when listening for the rhymes. They can also practice writing the words to label the objects.

  4. Pocket Chart Word Sort--Kids love pretending to be the teacher! Once in a while, let them use the tools, like pocket charts, that YOU usually use at the front of the class for demonstration purposes. Have them sort (by rime) words written on pocket chart cards. Consider color coding the words at first for any kid who's really struggling. Use any pocket chart you already have on hand, or go all out and get this really cool one already filled with all the right word and picture cards: Word Families & Rhyming Center Pocket Chart.

  5. Spinner and/or Consonant Dice Games--Print onsets on a blank spinner. Kids can spin it and combine the onset they spun, with the word family rime they're studying, to build a word. For the more advanced, print multiple rimes on the spinner. Have one student spin while the other rolls a consonant die. Together, they can see how many words they can build.

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