Meet the (Word) Family

Make Way for Ducklings Tales2go Audio Books

Standards and Objective

Help kindergartners, first and second graders understand that if word endings sound alike, they can also look alike. This activity provides an opportunity to introduce rimes or word families, lets kids explore how to make new words by changing beginning sounds or letters, and encourages application of knowledge of word families to decoding new words.


  • A whiteboard or flipchart
  • Markers

Tales2go Titles

  • Make Way for Ducklings
  • Caps for Sale
  • The Gingerbread Man (Scholastic)
  • This Old Man (song)


After having listened to a story, such as Make Way for Ducklings, talk with the child or small group of children about the names Mr. and Mrs. Mallard give their ducklings: Jack, Kack, Lack, Mack, Nack, Ouack (pronounced wack), Pack and Quack. Using a whiteboard or flipchart, write and say the first word family word Jack and point out that the word family is /-ack/ by underlining ack. Ask students to call out or call on students to offer beginning letters that make the names of the ducklings. Write each name under the other so that each /-ack/ lines up under the previous. As children offer you beginning letters, make sure you say the sound of the letter as you write it with the word family. Ouack is tricky!

Once you’ve named all the ducklings, continue asking children to offer other words that end in

/-ack/.  You can ask a child to define a word or use it in a sentence to gauge their understanding of actual words versus making up nonsense words to fit the word family. You should also explain that some of the duckling names are also words, such as lack and quack. If students are engaged and enjoying the exercise, introduce another rime, such a /-uck/, start with duck, and create another word family list.

In the story, Mr. and Mrs. Duckling are looking for a quiet, safe place to raise a family. But the place they choose is noisy, busy city. Encourage children to think about the sounds of the city from a duck’s point of view—the sounds of the speeding cars, bikes and scooters, the policeman’s whistle, the noise of people walking. Have children listen to the story again and share or write down ideas for sound effects to accompany the story. Ask them to think about how they might make a particular sound with another object—such as how the whoosh of a bike passing could be made by quickly swooping a stick through the air. You may want to have some household items on hand, as well as whistles and horns should you and your students want to listen to the story again and add special accompaniment.

Extensions and Variations

Add new members to Mr. and Mrs. Mallard’s family with a new word family. Create the word family list using /-ack/. Then suggest a new word family such as /-en/ and ask students to come up with names for at least five new ducklings. Continue with new word families to ensure everyone has at least one opportunity to suggest a name.


Word Family Graphic Organizer (PDF download)

Online Word Family Sort by ReadWriteThink

About Phonics

Phonics is an instructional approach where emerging readers “sound out” words. The new readers learn to associate letters or letter groups with the sounds they represent, and pronounce the word these sounds create, essentially building a word using sounds.  Listening has always been an integral part of learning to read, and Tales2go storytellers speak those letter sounds on all grade levels.  The catalog includes titles for those reading and listening at a preschool level, up to a high school level of instruction, and even audio books for parents or teachers. Hearing those sounds that make up words pronounced appropriately and clearly simplifies the process of learning those letter sounds. The emerging reader is then using phonics to build a variety of new words, deepening their understanding of language, literature, and text.