Word Chaining: An Essential Part of Your Reading Group {FREEBIE included}


Word chaining is an essential part of your reading group!  I will show you step by step how to teach students to chain words.  Word chaining is a quick and easy phonics activity that you can use in your guided reading groups. It is critical to the success of struggling readers as well as kindergarteners and first graders learning to read.  Don't miss out on this post that also includes a freebie for you! {word work,small group reading,intervention groups,RtI,1st grade, 2nd grade}
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Word Chaining is an essential component of your reading group.
It is a great way for students to practice phonetic patterns, manipulate sounds in words, and read words.  Chaining is also a quick and easy activity that students love to do!

What is chaining?

Chaining is a sequence of words that can be built by changing one sound at a time.
For example: at → cat → cot → hot → hat → pat → pan → an

When do you use it?

If you are a classroom teacher, chaining is a great warm-up or word work activity before reading a book.

If you are a reading specialist/interventionist, chaining can also be incorporated into a specific intervention for students.

What materials do you need?

One of the great things about chaining is that you can use a variety of materials.  Some examples are whiteboards, magnetic letters, or cut up letters. My favorites are the blue and red letters seen below from Really Good Stuff that is also sold by Amazon.

Word chaining is an essential part of your reading group!  I will show you step by step how to teach students to chain words.  Word chaining is a quick and easy phonics activity that you can use in your guided reading groups. It is critical to the success of struggling readers as well as kindergarteners and first graders learning to read.  Don't miss out on this post that also includes a freebie for you! {word work,small group reading,intervention groups,RtI,1st grade, 2nd grade}

How does it work?

Choose the skill: The chains that you choose are dependent on your students and their needs.  Ideally, the words in the chains will follow a specific pattern that students will find in the text that they are reading (ex. short a, digraphs, silent e words).  If you are using chaining as an intervention, then the pattern should be the student’s skill deficit.

Once you have chosen the skill, gather your materials.

Word chaining is an essential part of your reading group!  I will show you step by step how to teach students to chain words.  Word chaining is a quick and easy phonics activity that you can use in your guided reading groups. It is critical to the success of struggling readers as well as kindergarteners and first graders learning to read.  Don't miss out on this post that also includes a freebie for you! {word work,small group reading,intervention groups,RtI,1st grade, 2nd grade}

Step 1:

Ask the student to make a word, for example, “cat”   Have the student tap each letter and say the sound ”c-a-t”.  Then they can run their finger underneath and say the word “cat.”

Word chaining is an essential part of your reading group!  I will show you step by step how to teach students to chain words.  Word chaining is a quick and easy phonics activity that you can use in your guided reading groups. It is critical to the success of struggling readers as well as kindergarteners and first graders learning to read.  Don't miss out on this post that also includes a freebie for you! {word work,small group reading,intervention groups,RtI,1st grade, 2nd grade}

Step 2:

Tell the student to change a sound so that “cat” says “cot” and repeat step 2.  Repeat these steps until you have done 7-10 word chains.

Word chaining is an essential part of your reading group!  I will show you step by step how to teach students to chain words.  Word chaining is a quick and easy phonics activity that you can use in your guided reading groups. It is critical to the success of struggling readers as well as kindergarteners and first graders learning to read.  Don't miss out on this post that also includes a freebie for you! {word work,small group reading,intervention groups,RtI,1st grade, 2nd grade}

Bonus Tips:


  • When chaining, it is important to only change one sound/spelling at a time.
  • Make sure you say that they are changing a sound not a letter.
  • Do not tell the student what letter to change. If they make a mistake you can prompt them to tap the words again to check their work.  

There are three ways to change the word.

  1. Change a sound: “Change a sound so that cot says hot”
  2. Adding a sound: “Add a sound so that at says cat”
  3. Deleting a sound: “Take a sound away so that pan says an”


If you are working on long vowels with a silent e, below is a picture of a trick we use at my school when having students chain.  It is a great cue that the vowel will need to say its name and that the silent e does not make a sound.

Word chaining is an essential part of your reading group!  I will show you step by step how to teach students to chain words.  Word chaining is a quick and easy phonics activity that you can use in your guided reading groups. It is critical to the success of struggling readers as well as kindergarteners and first graders learning to read.  Don't miss out on this post that also includes a freebie for you! {word work,small group reading,intervention groups,RtI,1st grade, 2nd grade}

How to Teach Chaining {FREEBIE}

It is important to explicitly teach students how to chain.  I made this presentation to use with students as a mini-lesson so I could model the steps of chaining before we did it together for the first time.  It was extremely helpful!  I have it for you (for FREE) in three different formats: PowerPoint, Google Slides and a Video.  Click here to grab them all!




Now it's your turn!

I know that we teachers are very busy and want to help make this process as easy and pain-free as possible for you!  So:



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Word chaining is an essential part of your reading group!  I will show you step by step how to teach students to chain words.  Word chaining is a quick and easy phonics activity that you can use in your guided reading groups. It is critical to the success of struggling readers as well as kindergarteners and first graders learning to read.  Don't miss out on this post that also includes a freebie for you! {word work,small group reading,intervention groups,RtI,1st grade, 2nd grade}


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