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Teaching Word Families to English Language Learners

Instructor: Lesley King

Lesley has taught ESOL for many years, holds a master's degree in curriculum and instruction, and a doctorate degree in Instructional Leadership.

In this lesson, you'll learn the definition of word families and gain insight into how to teach them to English language learners. You'll also have a chance to explore some examples of word families that can be used to enhance instruction.

What Are Word Families?

When we think of a family, we may think of groups of people who are related in some way or another; this same principle applies to families of words. Word families are words that are closely related based on letter patterns.

Word Families Are Like Real Families: They Are Related!
family

In many cases, word families consist of a common group of letters, where changing the first letter results in a new word with a completely different meaning. Word families also have similar sounds or rhyme, such as the words 'hike', 'bike', and 'like.' These words have similar letter patterns (ike), and when we change the first letter, we create a new word. Below are some additional examples of word families.

  • Love, dove, above
  • Best, rest, test, vest
  • Eye, lye, dye
  • Know, snow, blow
  • Pea, tea, sea

As you can see in the first example, we can both add and change letters to alter the meaning of a word, like in 'above.' This allows it to remain part of the word family.

How Can I Teach Word Families?

One way to teach students about word families is to show examples and discuss their meanings. After this, students can participate in fun activities while seeing how word families are built and relate to each other.

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