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 practice encoding and decoding single-syllable short "e" words with three and four phonemes, allowing ample time for this potentially challenging vowel sound. Initial and final clusters for use in short "e" words are offered as extensions (ex: "chest," "blend"). High-frequency, one syllable words ending with "y" as long "i" are introduced. The suffix "-ing" as a doing suffix ("thinking," "flying," "crying," "jumping," "going," etc.) is offered as an extension. 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.
"Grab your sketch pad and pen, Sam," said Dad. "And your binoculars." Sam put the binoculars around his neck and put the pen and pad in his backpack.
"Where are we going?" asked Sam.
"I know you're sad about not having a pet," said Sam's dad. "So I want you to see all the wonderful creatures that live in our city."
Sam nodded. "I will be like a spy. I will spy on the creatures and sketch them in my pad," Sam added. "That way I can pretend they are in our apartment."
"Yes," said Dad. "But you don't need to pretend. Because we all live in the city together, we all share a home with each other."
Sam hopped from one leg to the other. "Let's go, let's go, let's go!" Sam said.
"We'll start with the shed in the back of our building," said Sam's dad. Sam blinked. "We'll start where?"
But as soon as Sam's dad opened the shed door, Sam understood. There, connected to the the planks of the ceiling, a spider was spinning her web.
Sam asked, "What is that white blob in the center of the web?"
"That's an egg sac," said Sam's dad. "Soon, it will open, and the spider's babies will hatch."
"I thought only hens had eggs," Sam said. Sam sketched the spider, her web, and the egg sac.
Sam put his pen down and walked with Dad to the park down the block. Sitting on the bench, Sam's dad dropped some bits of bread on the ground. Sam helped him. Immediately, a robin with a red breast flew down to eat. The robin chuckled at Sam.
"I thought birds were shy. They usually fly away when I get close," said Sam. "I guess this bird likes me!" he said as he sketched the bird standing in front of him. Just as he was finishing the drawing, the robin flew away. Sam and his dad had not walked much farther when Sam detected a movement in the plants beside the path. He dropped down to his knees. A big ant tromped through the green, pinching one of the bread bits between its front legs.
"The ant is bringing food back to its family," said Sam's dad.
"I didn't know ants eat people food," said Sam. And Sam sketched the ant.
As they walked home, Dad asked, "Did you enjoy our adventure today? Do you still wish you had a pet?"
Sam wasn't listening. He was watching the sidewalk for more ants. "What did you say?" said Sam as he watched an ant scurry through between the sidewalk crack. "Hey, maybe we could go on a picnic tomorrow and look for more creatures."
"OK," said Dad with a grin.