getting ready for kindergarten: short e picture-word sort

One of the best activities for practicing early word learning is the picture-word sort.

Nothing takes the pressure off of reading like adding pictures since a huuuuge chunk of early reading involves kids using the pictures to help them figure out words.  It’s a natural partnership.

So while Maddy worked on her last (woooo-hoooo!) homework packet of the year, Owen got busy with some work that will help prepare him for kindergarten: the short e picture and word sort.

Here’s the skinny (and it’s much easier than you may think!):

Though I used the short e sort from Words Their Way, I do have a short e picture-word sort to download and try yourself.

We followed the same basic system as we’ve done in the past, but this time Owen’s extension was really simple–he copied the words in his notebook. Pretty easy.

Owen sorts the short e pictures first. . .


I started by saying, Okay, Owen, today while Maddy works and Cora paints, you’re going to rock out the short e words.  First we’ll organize and sort these pictures that have the short e (I demonstrated the sound ‘eh’) in the middle. We’re going to listen closely for the end sounds of these words and then we’ll put them in family groups.

Listen as I say these three words: pet, beg, ten. Pet, beg, ten.  I can hear a different end sound in each word.  Pet.  What sound do you hear at the end of ‘pet’?

‘T’–it’s the ‘t’.

Right. ‘Pet’ ends with a ‘ttt’ sound, so I’ll put it here. Listen to ‘beg’. Can you hear a different sound? Can you hear the ‘ggg’ sound?

Yes, it’s ‘ggg’  for ‘g’. And ‘ten’ has an ‘nnn’ sound. It’s an ‘n’ at the end.

You got it. So we’ll put ‘pet’ in the middle and ‘ten’ right here. Listen as I say each of the other pictures.  When I’m finished, I’ll help Maddy with her work and you can put these picture cards in the right family group. Okay?



. . . and then he matches the words to the pictures.


I checked back with him after just a few minutes, once I saw he had three columns (kind of) of pictures.

I said, Looks like you’re finished. Why don’t you say the words you put in each group so we can make sure everyone fits.

He did, and he was on target.  He was ready for the next step: picture and word matching.


Okay, Owen, you know the next step, and it’s a toughie: matching the correct word to the picture. Here are the teeny short e word cards.  Take a few minutes to match each word to its picture and let me know when you’re ready for me to check.

He gave me the signal a few minutes later, and he read each word. I pointed to each word as he read.

OH my goodness, Owen, you are rocking it today, my friend. What do you notice about the sounds of the words in each column?

He said, They’re mostly rhyming, and we talked about the rhyme sounds a bit. Then I said,

Okay, after we match the words and pictures, we always do one last activity. Today, let’s just have you write each word in your red notebook. (His red notebook is just a spiral notebook that’s ‘his’.)

I’ve made three columns, one for each word family.  In this first one, you can write down words from the ‘-et’ family. In the middle one, you can write words from the ‘-eg’ family, and in the last one, you can write the words from the ‘-en’ family.  After you write the word, just flip the card over, and when I see all blank cards, I’ll come back over.

I came back over when he was finished, and I read each word in each column. Then I said, Awesome.  Can you think of any other words that aren’t here that fit into the ‘-et’ family? I can–I’m thinking of ‘bet’. He came up with ‘zet’ and ‘vet’–and I gave him a high five for each one. Okay, we came up with ‘bet’, ‘zet’, and ‘vet’.  Pick one and write it on the bottom of the list.

We did the same for each family, and he was done. He grabbed a coloring book and colored a bit until we headed over to the pool.

Super-quick, super-worthwhile picture and word sorting in a really, really short amount of time and with four distinct steps that are predictable and keep things moving for kids:

  1. demonstrate: introduce the sort, the focus, and anchor words or pictures
  2. sort and check: sort away! check back and encourage self-monitoring
  3. reflect: take a second and have kiddos think about the words, sounds, patterns, etc.
  4. extend: take the sort a step further by writing words and adding to list, playing with the words, searching for the words in a text, etc.

I didn’t this time, but it’s always wise to throw in an ‘oddball’ words that ‘are at odds with the consistencies within each category‘ (I love the way it’s described in Words Their Way, 2004).  The oddball might be something like the word ‘have’ in a short -a / long -a sort–a word that doesn’t follow the rules of pronunciation.   I usually just make a big question mark on a card for any words that might cause confusion for students when they’re sorting, but, of course, I forgot this time for Owen.

Anyway, thanks to Bear’s Words Their Way (2004) for the fabulous sorting information and for Rockingham k-12 site for providing the images I used in the short -e picture/ word sort I created. Happy sorting!





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