Upcycled Literacy, Part 3: Word Families

teaching lettersRemember all the rhymes and rhyming books you read with your toddler? They have made you a word family expert!

Simply put, a word family is a group of words that have a pattern to them. While one “part” of the word may change, they often have a very similar sound. For new readers, that usually means learning 3-letter words that begin and end with a consonant. The moving part of the word is usually the vowel.

You bottlecap alphabet will make it very easy – and fun – to build your child’s word bank.

Word Families: Changing the Consonant

Changing the consonant in a word is probably the most recognized version of learning word families. The picture to the right is an illustration of the “at” family. Those two letters stay in place. It is the first letter of the word that will change.

Most (but not all) letters will create a 3-letter word with “at.” There are  nat and zat for example. Encourage your child to try all the letters. It is great letter sound practice. Besides, zat is sure to make them laugh.

Here are three examples of ways to change just one letter to get a new word. The fun for your child is experimenting with the different combinations.

Word Families: Changing Vowel Sounds

learn to readWords aren’t words without vowels, and playing mix-and-match with two consonants and a vowel in the middle is not just fun, its great practice, too. In the image to the left, I chose one of my larger bottle caps to be the spot where I add / remove a vowel.

P [blank] T is a great combo, because there is a word with every vowel. So when you’re looking to practice with all vowels, P _ T and B _ T are great ones.



The opportunities for playing with letter sounds and word families are nearly endless. As you practice, don’t forget to USE the words, too. By incorporating them into sentences as you practice, you are helping your child retain their meaning and (unconsciously) understand how that particular word is used.

Also in this series: