Let's help all your kindergarten students learn how to read this year! These an words for Kindergarten are some of the easiest high frequency words your students will encounter again and again. Learn how to teach them effectively using principles from the Science of Reading and this handy word list! Plus, keep reading for some free -an printable activities to use with your kids!
There's something so exciting about teaching Kindergarten students! They're learning how to read, and it's amazing to see how they grow and change throughout the year. Once they start chipping away at CVC words, it's just a matter of time and practice before they become fluent readers!
What are -an words?
These high-frequency words are typically three-letter words. Most of these basic words are CVC words with a consonant-vowel-consonant pattern. Think can, ran, fan, etc. Fortunately, they are some of the most common words your students will come upon and are quite easy to decode.
Since they're easy to decode but important to know quickly, we call them flash words. Your students need to know them "in a flash," but they aren't the same as tricky words which may have some irregular spelling patterns.
In the past, we'd teach words like these with flashcards, relying on our students' visual memory to recognise and recall these important words in just moments. These days, we know that this approach doesn't work and leaves many kids behind!
Teaching High Frequency Words the Right Way
Did you know it takes students up to 500 exposures to a word before students learn it by sight?
The visual part of our memory isn't nearly as powerful as the centre for oral language. If we teach students how to connect letters to the sounds they already know, they'll have a much easier time remembering the words. In this approach, you're building off the neuronal networks your students already have and simply stretching their understanding.
The secret is to really focus on phonemic awareness before you dive into phonics lessons. Your students should be able to identify and manipulate the individual phonemes (speech sounds) in words before they start tying them to written letters.
When you teach this way, students learn these Kindergarten 'sight words' in just a few repetitions, not the hundreds needed when you rely on visual memory!
What a game-changer! That means we don't need to worry about flash cards or rushing our little learners through as many high-frequency words as they can. Instead, we'll spend that time orally manipulating sounds, listening for words with the same ending sounds, and substituting phonemes. In essence, we are teaching spelling knowledge, not spelling lists.
How to Teach An Words for Kindergarten
You can teach your students about the -an word family without writing down a single letter! As you say a word in the family, invite your students to break apart the sounds they hear.
- Say "can"
- Invite your students to break apart the sounds they hear (usually first, last, then middle): /k/ /a/ /n/
- Practise segmenting the sounds in other words in this family, like "ran" and "fan"
- After some repetition, ask students to replace the beginning sound with different initial sounds: replace the /f/ in "fan" with /d/ ("Dan")
- Continue practising this regularly
Eventually, your Kindergarten kids become attuned to the different sounds in words, and they can recognise them more easily. By the way, this is a great time to teach about rhyming words, which is a crucial part of building phonological awareness (and it's fun too)!
Orthographic Mapping for Kindergarten Teachers
After your students have sufficient phonological awareness skills, including phonemic awareness, this is a great time to move into orthographic mapping, or the process of encoding oral language into writing language.
I recommend using sound boxes for this process because it's the best way to identify the individual sounds your students hear in each word and then tie them to individual letters of the alphabet. It's important to focus on getting the sounds (phonemes), not worrying about the spelling! (Some early readers get stuck on this; it's important to reinforce that the sounds come first.)
Teach word mapping or sound boxes with your whole class in your daily literacy practice, and incorporate sound boxes in your small groups, literacy centers, and independent work as well.
I've created interactive slides that help you go through a complete orthographic mapping procedure with no prep! These slides are a great way to commit to word mapping without adding something else to your plate.
If this is a new skill for you, don't worry! It's easier than you'd think, and it's seriously effective. If you've struggled in the past to help all of your students learn to read, synthetic phonics instruction builds on your students' natural language skills. It's so much less cognitively demanding than using context clues or flashcards, and it ensures every single one of your students will become successful readers.
-an Words: Kindergarten Sight Word List
When you're ready to move onto CVC words or word families, these kindergarten words are some of the easiest to start with. Below, you'll find three lists of words that range from easy words, like fan and can, to more complex sight word lists with interesting words, like clan, chant, and began.
CVC -an Word Family List
These simple words all have three letters with the same vowel sound and ending letter pattern. Each word has the same /a/ sound as the word apple, although the sound shifts as the tongue moves to make the /n/. It's almost like an r-controlled vowel, but it's easy enough for students to blend the sounds together once they get started!
CCVC and CVCC Words with -an
Once your students get comfortable with the words above, try introducing these similar words. The only difference is that instead of one consonant before the an, they have two sounds that must be pronounced together.
- than (digraph; more complex for emergent readers)
More Complex -an Words
Eventually, you can teach your students to look for that -an sound in more complex words. Instead of always being at the end of the word, the sound could be at the beginning or middle of the word, too.
- chant (digraph; more complex for emergent readers)
Consolidate with these cumulative review printables
Cumulative practice activities allow students to consolidate new phonics skills whilst they are also reviewing previously taught skills. You might like to have a read of this blogpost: Using phonics printables effectively for cumulative review.
I've also created a set of printable high frequency heart words as a freebie! It has the 300 most common words broken down into eight lists with tips and rhyming words so you can target the most commonly used words at a time.
Like these -an words for Kindergarten, I recommend teaching these using orthographic mapping with your whole class. This process will help your young students truly encode these new words in their long-term memory while also setting them up to be able to read different words in the future.
Resources for Teaching 'Sight Words'
I've written quite a few posts about this modern approach to teaching reading, with some specially tailored to Kindergarten teachers like yourself.
- Teaching High Frequency Words in Kindergarten
- Best Printable Phonics Worksheets for Kindergarten
- Tricky Words: What They Are & 8 Fun Games to Teach Them
- How to Teach CVC Words the Right Way
If you're ready to switch to a synthetic phonics approach in your kindergarten classroom, don't miss my free 250-paged ebook Phonics and Beeyond! This resource is packed with step-by-step details and tons of background information to help you start teaching your students to read in a developmentally appropriate way. It will transform your teaching and help all of your students become confident readers in no time!Before you go, don't forget to download your free An Words for Kindergarten word list and printables!