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.
- Question and Switch: Students apply growing knowledge of grapheme-phoneme (letter-sound) connections and of decodable and high-frequency words by reading cards with graphemes or words, then switching with a partner to read a new one.
- Call and Response: Students apply growing knowledge of grapheme-phoneme connections to chant correlating graphemes (letters) to phonemes (sounds), phonemes to graphemes, and blend phonemes to make a recognizable spoken word.
- 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 work with the short vowel "e", which can often be the most difficult for students to distinguish from the other vowels. Students are given ample practice decoding and encoding words with three and four phonemes. Lesson extensions provide the ability to use initial and final consonant blends as in the words "flesh" and "best." Direct instruction of "-ank," "-ink," "-unk," and "-onk" builds from the "-ng" work in prior cycles while also allowing for the review of /a/, /i/, /u/, and /o/. 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.
Sam wanted a pet. There was nothing on the planet that Sam wanted more.
Sam asked, and asked, and asked.
Sam begged Dad for a pet. He asked at breakfast, drinking milk. He asked at lunch, eating ham sandwiches. And he asked after dinner, sitting on Dad's chest as his dad was trying to take a nap.
"The rules don't allow pets in our apartment," said Sam's dad with regret.
But Sam had a plan. He would catch a pet.
The next day, Sam and Dad went to the park. Sam spotted a furry tail slipping behind a shed. He followed it and found a street cat. He ran after it, but the cat dashed away.
"Cats can move fast," said Dad with a grin.
"Maybe my shoes are just too loud," said Sam with a frown.
Then Sam tried to catch a beautiful moth. But the moth flew off.
"Maybe my hands are just too smelly," Sam said, with a deeper frown.
Then Sam saw a red ant. "No!" Dad said before Sam could pick it up. "Red ants can bite."
Sam walked to the pond in the middle of the park. He dunked his hand in to catch a fish. He had no luck. The fish was too fast.
Finally, Sam lashed a string to the end of his baseball bat. He put peanut butter on the tip of the string. He lowered it into the damp, dark sewer and waited. But nothing happened.
"Fish don't live in the sewers," said Dad with a grin.
"Maybe fish just don't like peanut butter," said Sam with the deepest frown of all. The day was over. Sam dragged himself to his bedroom and sat down on his bed. He watched the sun slip behind the buildings. Sam's dad came in and turned on the desk lamp. "Are you sad, kid?" Sam's dad asked.
"Yeah, a little," said Sam. Dad has a plan.