Learners learn to classify objects, evens or ideas in order to form generalizations that can then be applied to new situations. This problem solving activity develops relationships that allow for independent learning. Studying word families makes sense as readers identify Wylie and Durrell’s high utility phonograms. Successful readers use the letter patterns and their phonetic sounds to identify unknown words.
This book focuses on word families or phonograms. These phonetic chunks are an effective way to introduce the study of words to students. Words in a family rhyme because they share a common feature. For example, successful readers see “stop” as “st-op” rather than “s-t -o-p” or “sto-p” and then after practice and developing generalizations can readily apply that phonogram to other words including “drop”, “chop”, “lollipop”, “tropic” and “optic”. Word families offer a consistency in word study that is not found with other word features. For example, the phonogram “ack” is consistent as in “back”, “clack”, and “package” whereas the vowel “a” can have many sounds as in: at, April, cake, mail, day, car, air, walk, haul, saw, want, and total.
The 37 phonograms can be used to generate at least 500 primary words used by children in their early reading (Wylie and Durell, 1970). These same high utility word families are also found as word chunks within words as well as in multi-syllable words.
Once students become adept at using word families in rhyming words they can learn to use this rime as a chunk within words and in multi-syllable words.
We have developed this book to be multi-functional.
Each word family has words at Levels A, B and C.
• Level A words most often find the word family phonograms in one syllable words and can be used with students at the Letter Name Stage.
• Level B words using the same word family phonogram might find it within the word and thus the students might be at the Within Word Stage.
• Level C words using the same word family phonogram could be used with students at the Syllable Juncture Stage.
Thus the word sorts could be used to differentiate by spelling levels.
Exploring Word Families
Level A: Word family in the rime position using one and two syllable words, i.e.
flap, trap, yap, map
Level B: Word family within word using one and two syllable words and increasingly
difficult vocabulary, i.e. napkin, wiretap, scrap
Level C: Word family within multi-syllable words using increasingly more challenging
vocabulary, i.e. handicap, chapter, perhaps, captain,
An additional way to use Exploring Word Families is provide the students with increasing challenging words on the same set of phonograms. For Example, a teacher might introduce a group of phonograms with words from Levels A, B, and C. Then work with the students in guided practice, allowing them to progress from Level A to B and finally to C. In the Gradual Release of Responsibility strategy, the students could then work with words at all three levels either in small groups or independently using additional words at all three levels.
Common Core State Standards:
Kindergarten: RF.K.3a; RF.K3
First Grade: RF.1.3
Second Grade: RF.2.3
Third Grade: RF 3.3
Fourth Grade: RF 4.3
Fifth Grade: RF 5.3
The Complete Word Families book includes:
Word Sorts at Levels A, B, and C for phonograms, _at, _it, _ot, _ap, _ip, _op, _an, _in, _ell, _ill, _ick, _ock, _uck, _ank, _ink, _unk, _ash, _ing, _ake, _ore, _oke, _ice, _ide, _ine, _eat, _est, _ight, _ail, _ain, _ay, _ale, _ame, _ate, _aw, _ug, _ump
K/2 Word Study Scope and Sequence
Word Study Procedures
Word Study Day by Day Teacher’s Guide / Lesson Plans including independent and small group activities and games.
Word Study Student Sheet
Word Study Homework Agenda
Word Study Parent Letter
Additional Word Study Recourses
Visit us at www.exploringwords.com to see what other word study sorts are available for you and your students. Be sure to follow us on TPT. Additional word study sorts will be available soon.