Word Family: Finding the Commonalities

10 min read
Word Family: Finding the Commonalities


Are you struggling to help your child understand how to read? There are many things that you can do to help encourage literacy, one of which includes teaching your child word families.

Word families are the grouping of common letters into similar word lists. In short, if your child understands the word family, they’ll be able to understand a list of words with the word family in common.

This guide will not only explain the various word families in the English language but also give you tips and tricks on how to increase reading comprehension.

What are Word Families?

A word family is a group of letters that are combined to make a specific sound. For example, -ack, -am-, and -at are all word families.

The purpose of understanding a word family is the notion that if you can identify one word, you should be able to identify many others with the common word family. So, if your child can sound out “back,” then they should easily be able to sound out “smack, tack, and rack” as well.

This is also the foundation of understanding how words work together to create a rhyme. Since these words all sound the same, you can combine them to make them have the same flow and rhyme scheme.

Word families increase with difficulty as children age. The first world families that are taught are generally simple, like “at” (for “cat, bat, and sat”). As children age, they will be asked to identify more complex word families like “ain” (or “rain, refrain, and stain”).

Word families and sight words work together to help children learn how to read. All of these words are high-frequency words, which means that children will see them often. When children can identify them quickly and easily, they can become more persuasive writers.

What are Word Families?


According to Wylie and Durrell, there are 37 common word families in the English language. In actuality, there are many more than 37, but these are the highest frequency words.

Many popular nursery rhymes include these 37 word families. They are simple because each letter is pronounced the way it should be. The only time that words are not pronounced as they are spelled is in the event of two vowels being next to each other. When you encounter one of these two-vowel words (like rain), the rule is to pronounce the first vowel only.

Below is a list of examples for each of the 37 most popular word families.

ack ain ake ale all ame
attack brain awake ale all blame
back chain bake bale ball came
black explain brake dale call fame
crack gain cake gale fall flame
hack grain fake kale gall frame
knack main flake male hall game
lack pain Jake pale install lame
pack plain lake sale mall name
quack rain make scale small same
rack slain quake stale squall shame
snack sprain rake tale stall tame
stack stain sake whale tall  
tack strain shake   thrall  
whack train snake   wall  
  vain stake      


an ank ap ash at ate
an bank cap ash at abate
ban blank clap bash bat ate
bran crank flap brash brat crate
can dank gap cash cat date
clan drank lap clash chat debate
Dan flank map crash fat fate
fan frank nap dash flat gate
flan Hank rap flash gnat grate
Fran plank sap gash hat hate
Jan prank scrap gnash mat Kate
Japan rank slap hash pat late
man sank snap lash rat mate
pan shrank strap mash sat plate
pecan spank tap rash slat rate
plan tank trap sash spat relate
ran thank wrap slash tat sate
scan yank yap smash that skate
span   zap splash vat state
Stan     stash    
tan     thrash    
than     trash    


aw ay eat ell est ice
caw away beat bell best dice
claw bay cheat cell chest ice
draw bray cleat dell crest mice
flaw clay eat dwell jest nice
gnaw day feat farewell nest price
jaw decay greet fell pest rice
law delay heat hell quest slice
paw display meat sell rest spice
raw flay neat shell test splice
saw gay peat smell unrest thrice
slaw gray pleat spell vest twice
straw hay seat swell west vice
thaw jay treat tell zest  
  lay wheat well    
  may   yell    


ick ide ight ill in ine
brick bride bright bill bin brine
chick decide delight chill chin decline
click glide fight dill din define
flick hide flight drill fin dine
kick pride fright fill gin fine
lick ride height frill grin line
nick side knight gill in mine
pick slide light grill kin nine
quick stride might hill pin pine
Rick tide night ill shin shine
sick wide plight Jill skin shrine
slick   right kill sin sine
stick   sight krill spin spine
thick   slight mill thin swine
tick   tight pill tin tine
trick   tonight quill twin twine
wick     shrill win vine
      sill within whine
      skill   wine


ing ink ip it ock op
bring blink blip admit block coop
cling brink chip bit clock droop
fling drink dip fit cock hoop
king fink drip flit crock loop
ping ink flip grit dock scoop
ring link grip hit flock snoop
sing mink hip it frock stoop
sling pink lip kit hock troop
spring rink nip knit jock  
sting shrink quip lit knock  
string sink rip mit lock  
swing stink ship pit mock  
thing think sip quit o’clock  
wing wink skip sit rock  
wring   slip skit shock  
zing   snip slit smock  
    strip snit sock  
    tip spit stock  
    trip split    
    whip twit    
    zip wit    


ore ot uck ug ump unk
bore apricot buck bug bump bunk
chore blot chuck dug clump chunk
core bot cluck hug dump drunk
fore clot duck jug grump dunk
gore cot luck lug hump flunk
lore dot muck mug jump funk
more forgot puck plug lump hunk
ore got pluck pug plump junk
pore hot stuck rug pump lunk
score jot struck shrug rump plunk
shore knot truck smug slump punk
sore lot tuck snug stump skunk
spore not yuck thug thump slunk
store plot   tug trump spunk
swore pot       sunk
tore rot       trunk
wore shot        
yore slot        


Tips and Tricks for Teaching Reading

When beginning to teach your child to read, you will want to blend information from word families and sight words to help your child start identifying words.

To do this, pick a list of words that matches their age-level and start practicing those words only. When your child can identify these words in a text, it means that they are beginning to see the patterns and identify those high-frequency words in writing.

When you begin teaching word families, start with one of the easier ones first, like am. Once they can identify am, sound it out, and find words that end in am, move to a more complicated word.

Once your child understands how to form these word families into actual words, they will be able to spell and read them!

If your child struggles with some of the foundational skills associated with reading, consider adding a workbook to their daily practice. ArgoPrep has worked with educators to deliver high-quality practice that will entertain, educate, and excite your child. These workbooks are especially helpful for students who might need a little extra attention to reading comprehension, English language skills, and more.

begin teaching word families


My daughter loves to build things with Magnatiles. She will grab all of the tiles and construct fantastic castles, homes, and more with the simple building tools. But what happens when she builds a weak base? We all know. It can’t stand, it’s not steady, and it falls.

Learning how to read can kind of be similar to building a weak structure. Identifying something as simple as a word family seems like a mindless activity for us. Still, for kids, it’s necessary to understand the increasingly tricky skills that kids learn for reading comprehension.

learn word families

Taking the time to learn word families will help them identify words more quickly and spell with more accuracy. This list of 37 high-frequency word families is a great place to start, but once your child masters it, consider researching more challenging word families to increase comprehension!