High-frequency words are words that occur most frequently in written material and do not follow phonetic rules or, as we say in the EL Education curriculum, "don't play fair." Due to this fact, it is important that students are able to navigate these words with ease to improve their reading fluency and comprehension. While high-frequency words on their own don't carry much meaning, they are essential to sentences and help students gather meaning. Below you will find five activities for each day of the week that teachers can do with students or parents can do with their children at home as high-frequency words are being introduced cycle by cycle.
- Read it, say it, write it, read it again
- Use high-frequency words in sentences (oral and written)
- Read a list of high-frequency words and time yourself on fluency (keep running list)
- Search for high frequency words in sentences / poems and underline them
- Fishing for high-frequency words (one person reads the word aloud, other students find the word in a stack of other high-frequency words)
The instructional practices listed below summarize the instruction that accompanies the skills that are being taught in this cycle for the respective grade level. Teachers should review these routines for guidance on how to teach the skills and patterns reflected in the microphase.
- Phonemic Blending and Segmentation: Students focus their attention on isolating and manipulating sounds in specific words. This is an ongoing routine that supports students' ability to match the grapheme (letter) to phoneme (sound). Students use the thumb-tapping technique to segment and blend sounds together to make words.
- Writing the Letter to Match the Sound: Students use knowledge of phoneme segmentation to isolate and identify the initial, middle, and final sound in a word. As they identify each sound, they must connect it to its written representation (grapheme) and practice proper letter formation using a skywriting technique.
- Chaining (Decoding): Students read words from left to right, making each sound and blending them to pronounce the word. Students analyze groups of words by figuring out the letter sounds that have changed and the letter sounds that have stayed the same of the group of words taught.
- Chaining (Encoding): Students use their knowledge of letter-sound connections to spell written words. Students write letters using proper letter-formation guidelines that correspond to the correct spelling of the words they hear. They are encouraged to check their spelling against the teacher model.
- Engagement Text: Students use knowledge of phoneme segmentation to isolate and identify the initial, middle, and final sound in a word. As they identify each sound, they must connect it to its written representation (grapheme) and practice proper letter formation using a skywriting technique.
- Comprehension Conversation (optional): Students answer suggested (or similar) text-based comprehension questions about the engagement text.
High-Frequency Words: Students are introduced to the high-frequency words of the cycle. The teacher explicitly teaches all high-frequency words students will see in the Decodable Student Reader. Students decode and analyze each word to determine if the word is "decodable" because it is regularly spelled, "doesn't play fair" because it hasn't been explicitly taught yet, or "irregular" because it is irregularly spelled.
- Decodable Reader Partner Search and Read: Students read a short text that incorporates words using familiar phonemes (sounds) and high-frequency words from the cycle, which students search out in the text with a partner before reading the text. Students receive practice with concepts of print (e.g., one-to-one match and return sweep) and apply knowledge of taught graphemes and phonemes as they decode words.
- High-Frequency Word Fishing: Students apply decoding (reading) skills and growing knowledge of irregularly spelled words to review the high-frequency words. Students begin the process of committing such words to memory by using known letter-sound connections and context.
- Sort It Out: Students sort words into groups with the same sound and connect them to the letters that represent those sounds. Students analyze words by comparing and contrasting parts of words and sorting them into the correct category.
- Interactive Writing: Students work together to construct a sentence, crafting a shared sentence from the decodable text or content from the Integrated Literacy block. Students spell words by segmenting the sounds (in sequence) of spoken words and match them to their letter(s). They also use rules of capitalization, spacing, and punctuation as they construct the sentence as well as practice high-frequency words.
- Reading Silly Words: Students decode (read) nonsense words in isolation and articulate the decoding strategy they used.
- Spelling with Style: Students spell words using patterns they have learned. They practice spelling words in a unique way, "with style" (e.g., like an opera singer or chicken), and then write them on their own whiteboard.
- Assessment and Goal Setting (during cycle assessments): Students take on-demand assessments at the end of each cycle. Teachers score immediately to track student progress and possibly revise their personal goals for the module accordingly.
Cycle Word List
In this cycle, students continue to work with consonant blends. Direct instruction of the final blends "-lt," "-ft", "-st," "-nt," "-nd," "-nk," and "-ng" to produce words such as "ended," "melted," "lifted," etc. allows for the introduction of the "-ed" suffix, pronounced /id/. Students are also introduced to an alternate spelling of the /ow/ sound: "ou." For the full cycle overview with word list, Cycle-at-a-Glance, and teaching notes, download the cycle overview.
Engagement Text and Decodable Readers
The text listed below can be utilized to reinforce the skills taught in the cycle. Teachers can use the text to have students apply their learning during small group work or teacher-led groups. By focusing on the skills/patterns being taught, students can apply their learning to text. A list of activities to consider with the text are listed in the activity section.
I sit on my soft couch. But what is that sound? I look out my front window. I look all around. It is the loud sound of the wind as it rustles through the trees.
I look up at the clouds and count them as they move through the sky. The wind gusts and the dust swirls through the air. The leaves from the tree blow around in a spiral.
I look at the tree, and I see a nest on a branch. A bird built that nest using sticks and leaves. The bird even used a string! I can see the string swirling in the wind.
I look down the hill. The crafty fox hunts by the pond. He pounces on a mouse in the grass. But the mouse escapes and runs away fast.
As I look out, I feel a small bug on my neck. I swat at it with my hand. Ouch! I think it bit me. Maybe it was a gnat? Or a mosquito? What a pest.
I hear one last gust of wind, and the fox is off to his hole in the ground. The clouds have gone past. The sun is out, and the wind is at rest. I go back to my soft couch, and I sit down.
There is not a sound.