Word Family Phonics

pile of letter tiles

Thanks to Sheri Lear for sharing this activity!


Purpose:  The purpose of this activity is to help students improve decoding skills and improve spelling by attending to discreet phonemic features such as vowel sounds, consonant blends, prefixes and suffixes.  Students use tiles to build words by listening to word chains and adding, taking away, exchanging or mixing up letters as directed by teacher.         


Prep Time:  About 10 minutes


Materials:  Letter tiles or letter cards (scrabble or bananagram tiles work very well) 



1.  Take the several letter tiles, for example:  i, n, a, t, h, w.  Place these tiles on a document projector or tape letter cards to the board. Use them to demonstrate the commands you will be using during this activity: add, take away, change, mix-up.


2.  Talk the class through spelling the words from a word family, demonstrating with the letter tiles. As you say each command, move the tiles into the correct order, or have a student volunteer rearrange them to spell each word.

Example of word family spelling sequence:

“Make the word in

“Add one letter to make the word win

“Change one letter to make the word tin

“Add one letter to make the word thin”

“Mix up the letters to make the word hint”

“Take away one letter to make the word hit

3.  Put the students into groups of 3 or 4.  Pass out a set of letter tiles or cards to each group.  Repeat the word family sequence together. 

4.  Begin a new sequence.  Walk around the classroom, checking that each group gets each word.  (You may choose to have student groups start with a limited number of tiles to avoid distraction.)

5.  Repeat #3 using new word family sequences.  Continue as long as the students remain engaged.

For a list of common word families, go to the following webpage: http://tutoring.uncc.edu/sites/tutoring.uncc.edu/files/media/Word%20Families.pdf


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