Phonics Word Families
Help to Read and Spell Efficiently


Phonics word families are groups of words that have similar letter patterns. By learning just one pattern your child can learn many words at the same time.



Word Family Examples

Here is a word family your child will learn as an early reader.

cat mat sat fat rat bat hat pat vat

All of these words have the letters at in common. When we read the words aloud the second part of each word sounds and looks the same . This makes them rhyme. In the at family the words are identical, except for the first letter. This is one of the first phonics word families children learn.

The following word family is more complex and would be taught at a much later stage in a child's reading and spelling. The part that is repeated in this family of words is ain.

train gain refrain obtain main remain explain rain brain drain grain stain



Follow This Sequence of Phonics Word Families

There are many different patterns or word families in the English language. The good news is that patterns are recyclable! That means that if your child learns a particular pattern once, they will be able to learn all the other words in that phonics word family without stress. It speeds up the process of learning to read and write.

This is how I, as a literacy teacher, teach the stages. I introduce my students to simple phonics word families in this order...

1. am family

Words like...

ham Sam ram bam dam jam Pam yam

I choose this family first because the letters a and m are among the first letters children should be taught to blend together. They are the easiest for beginner readers to learn.

2. at family

Words like those mentioned above...

cat mat sat fat rat bat hat pat vat

You probably have memories of reading books about cats on mats. Again this is because the t sound is learned early as so many words contain it.

3. an family

Words like...

can, Dan, fan, man, pan, ran, van

4. ad family

Words like...

bad dad had lad mad pad sad

All these words have what we call a short vowel a in the middle of them. The short a sounds like the way we say aaa at the beginning of the word apple.

Once your child understands what paticular sounds the letters make and how to form the letters they will be able to spell them as well as read them. It all depends on how well they can use a pencil but if their pencil grip is good they can sound out the letters and spell them not long after they learn to read them.

I focus on the vowel e when I teach the next group of phonics word families.

5. et family

Words like...

bet get jet let met net pet set vet wet

6. ed family

Words like...

bed, fed, led, Ted, Jed

7. en family

Words like...

Ben, den, hen, Jen, men, pen, ten

You will be getting the idea by now. Notice that at the early stages the words should only contain three letters. For young readers that is plenty to concentrate on.

Next you move to words with other vowels like...

 then o then u.

For a full list of words using these other vowels, click on the link

How To Teach Spelling.




Once your child has learned to smoothly blend the first few word families they will understand what to do as they work their way through the different vowels.

Learn these word patterns and the more advanced ones and it will make reading and writing much easier.


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