Get ready to fall in love! Word chains are an easy but powerful way to build important literacy skills including phonemic awareness, decoding, encoding, AND blending at the exact same time. Because you swap just one sound each time you move to a new box in the sequence, children are able to make connections between letter sounds and spelling patterns in a playful, motivating way.

Dive into word chains below and then snag your free list and record sheet so you can get started right away.

Word Chain list and printable record sheet

What Are Word Chains?

If you are looking for a quick and simple way to practice a variety of phonemic awareness and phonics skills, you’re in the right spot.

Word chains are a string of words that are connected through shared sounds or letter patterns so they build TONS of important literacy skills simultaneously.

And since students are essentially just making a list of words, they require zero teacher prep. Children can write their word chains on a whiteboard, a plain piece of paper, or (when you grab the download below) a fun printable.

Each time you say a new word, students will simply write it down. It doesn’t get much simpler than that!

Four Types of Chains

Depending on students’ reading ability, the activity can be tweaked to practice beginning, middle, or ending sounds.

For instance, if you started a word chain with HAT, you might have new readers focus on beginning sounds by writing: hat – rat – mat – sat…

Or if you were working with more advanced readers, you could home in on ending sounds instead: hat – ham – had – has…

With practice, students would eventually be able to work on middle vowel sounds: hat – hit – hot – hut…

And finally, with even more advanced readers, you could practice all three skills at once: hat – ham – him – dim.

As you can see, word chains can be quickly tweaked to meet students’ unique needs which makes them perfect for a huge range of readers.

Snag Your Set

I know it can be tough to think of word lists, so we pulled together a batch of print-and-teach short vowel chains for you.

Click the big blue “download here” button below to snag your set!

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  1. The link for the word chain downloads is not working

    1. Hi Kari!
      When you click the blue “Download Here” button, a pop-up should open. You can try checking to make sure your browser isn’t blocking pop-ups from the site or try using a different browser. If you happen to be attempting the download at school, your district’s web filter may be blocking the pop-up. Let me know if you’re not able to get the word chain!
      Sarah // Playdough to Plato Team

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