Word families- With Balls and Toilet Rolls!

Teaching Word Families

Word families are groups of words that have a common spelling pattern – they have some of the same combinations of letters in them and a similar sound. Words like cat, hat, and fat are a family of words with the “at” sound and letter combination in common.

Children progress as better readers when they can identify chunks in words like word families (e.g. Words ending with -at, -in) In teaching word families, children learn how to blend sounds (like c-at, b-in). It helps them to decode words faster, improving their word recognition skills as well as spelling skills. Reading books with lots of rhymes like Dr Seuss also helps develop their phonological awareness.

Materials you need:

Just some toilet rolls and plastic balls! You can also use pong pong balls or golf balls! Print out the words and pictures and stick them on.

IMG_8786 IMG_8792

Other concepts you can teach using this activity:

Numbers (matching 1 to one)

Ordinal numbers (matching 1st to first)

Phonics sounds (Matching a letter-sound to the correct picture)

Vocabulary (Matching words with pictures)

Math addition (Matching addition sums/subtraction sums to the answers)

Shapes (Matching spelling to the correct picture)


My little girl’s interaction with the materials

Before I could introduce to my curious little preschooler what the activity is about, she grabbed one of the colourful balls and placed it above the toilet roll and said, “Mummy, look this is an ice-cream cone!” I was amused and tickled at her little ingenious idea! So I played along with her and said yes, we are going to make some ice-cream cones for our little treats today!


I said I will show her how to make the ice-cream treats, and read out the words one by one on the paper rolls. Prior to that, I had read to her “Cat in the Hat” by Dr Seuss, and she could recall some of the -at words from the book. I started blending the onset (beginning sound) and the rime (-at) for her. Then in our second round of reading the words, I asked her to pick out the right ball that matches the correct word. She also repeated the word after we finished making the ‘ice-cream cone’.


With practice and repetition, your child will be able to see the word patterns in the word families, and effectively decode the words for pronunciation. This activity is visually stimulating and hands-on for little readers!


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