Fun Ways to Teach Word Family/Rime April 17 2010

Here's a free template and lesson plan (below). The students will slide the egg halves to create words. Then, they will guess which object is inside the egg. When the egg is open they will find the surprise answer. This lesson plan can be differentiated depending upon the needs of the student. Students learn onset and rime/word family.

First, let's review a few definitions, which will help guide the purpose of our instruction.


Onset - An onset is the beginning consonant element in a syllable, before the vowel. (For example, the word ring
R is the onset and ing is the rime. (Ring, wing, king and bring all belong to the ing word family.)

Rime or Word Family- There are 37 most commonly used rimes/word families.  When students learn the 37 word families they are equiped to write and spell more than 500 word combinations (Wylie and Durrell, 1970). A rime or word family is the vowel and any following consonants within a syllable. They are groups of words that have a common feature or pattern. They share the same combinations of letters and a similar sound.

The 37 most common word families in English are: ack, ain, ake, ale, all, ame, an, ank, ap, ash, at, ate, aw ay, eat, ell, est, ice, ick, ide, ight, ill, in, ine, ing, ink, ip, it, ock, oke, op, ore, ot, uck ,ug, ump, unk (Wylie and Durrell).

Chunk - A chunk is a unit of letters commonly grouped in words. Chunks are found at the beginning, middle or end of words. For example, the an chunk is in the words another, and, sand, man, handy, and chants. Teaching students how to recognize common chunks can help them figure out new words when reading and writing.

Phonogram -A phonogram is a letter or combination of letters which represent a sound.  Here is a list of 72 basic phonograms: a, b, c, d, e, f, g, h, i, j, k, l, m, n, o, p, qu, r, s, t, u, v, w, x, y, z, ai, ar, au, aw, ay, ch, ci, ck, dge, ea, ear, ed, ee, ei, eigh, er, ew, ey, gn, ie, igh, ir, kn, ng, nk, oa, oe, oi, oo, or, ou, ough, our, ow, oy, ph, sh, si, tch, th, ti, ui, ur, wh, wor, wr. Romalda Spalding (1970) referred to all of the basic phonograms in her work, with the exception of our (as in your) and nk (as in sank).  (Note: After completing assessments, it can be helpful to create a special Surprise Phonogram Egg for students in need of help with specific phonograms.)

How to Create Your Own Surprise Egg Word Family Game


  • Surprise Egg Word Family Game template (glue on top of the egg cartons. Keep the ring to put inside the example ing egg.)
  • Plastic Easter eggs (as many as you want or 37 for an entire set)
  • Black or dark blue permanent marker
  • Objects inside the eggs (Draw on paper or find inexpensive objects to put inside each egg. This is the fun part. Student can help with this, too.)
  • Egg carton with free template or basket to store the finished eggs. (You can make a few eggs or an entire set of 37, using each of the word families. If you use egg cartons, you will need 3 cartons, which fit a dozen eggs. You will have one extra egg, so tape or use a wikki stick to attach the extra egg on top of the stack of 3 cartons.)
  • For reference, keep this list of the 37 most common word families in English: ack, ain, ake, ale, all, ame, an, ank, ap, ash, at, ate, aw ay, eat, ell, est, ice, ick, ide, ight, ill, in, ine, ing, ink, ip, it, ock, oke, op, ore, ot, uck ,ug, ump, unk (Wylie and Durrell). You will write these word families on the right half of each egg.


Create and Show Students The Teacher's Example Surprise Egg Word Family Game

1. Create an example. Use a permanent marker to write the ing rime onto the right hand side of the egg. Then, write an r, w, br and k on the left half of the egg. 

Left  Right





2. Put a toy ring or a picture of a ring inside the egg.

3. When you are ready for instruction, twist each side of the egg to create a new word and say each word out loud.

4. Then spell each word as students repeat after you.

5. Students write each word on a white board as you show them the word. They hold the whiteboards up when finished.

6. Ask, "What sound do all of these words share?" (Listen for a student to say the correct answer.) These words are in the ing word family.

7. Here's the fun part. Ask the students,"What ing surprise word is inside of the egg?" (Students guess.)

8. Open the egg and show the students the ring.

Students Create Surprise Egg Word Family Game

  1. After showing the students your example, the students can brainstorm words under each rime/word family on a poster board or overhead projector. Use this brainstorming as a means of instruction and let the students help create the words. Tell the student to decide on one word in the egg and tell them to draw a pictures or find an object representing that word inside each egg. (For example, for the ing egg, the surprise was a ring.) If the students complete six-seven rimes/word families a day it will take about six days to complete all of the common word families. Keep this poster or overhead transparency for the following day.
  2. The next day, split the students into small groups and give each group an even number of eggs. Assign each group a word family to write on each egg.
  3. After they write the word family, they need to choose one word and draw a picture of the word to put inside of the egg.
  4. Students then close the eggs with the pictures of the words inside and writing on the outside.

Students Trade/Play Surprise Eggs

Rotate the groups of eggs to each group, until each group gets and opportunity to see each rime/word family and find the surprise inside each egg.

Additional Uses:

  • Substitute teachers - Skip painting the egg cartons to save time. After the students help create your game, keep it for future use.


Spalding, R. & North, M.E. (2003). Writing road to reading 5th rev ed: The Spalding Method for teaching speech, spelling, writing, and reading. Harper Collins. New York: NY.

Wylie, R.E., & Durrell, D.D. (1970). Teaching vowels through phonograms. Elementary English, 47, 787-791.

Learn More about Onset, Rime and Chunk