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 Pattern to Match the Vowel Sound: Students skywrite CVC (consonant, vowel, consonant) words by writing the letter that matches the sound they hear. Students analyze the placement of vowels and consonants within words and begin to identify the types of vowel sounds they hear and why.
- Syllable Sleuth: Students decode (read) words with different vowel sounds (short, long, r-controlled). They identify the number of syllables in words and break words apart by syllable. Students use their knowledge of vowel sounds to determine where to break the word apart by syllable.
- 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.
- Spelling to Complement Reading: Students work through a series of scaffolded steps to successfully spell words from the current or past cycles. They first isolate and identify the individual phonemes (sounds) in the spoken word, then apply their growing knowledge of letter-sound connections to identify the grapheme (letter) that matches each individual phoneme (sound). Finally, they use that information to encode (spell) the word.
- 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 two-syllable words (VC/CV), including compound words, to solidify students' understanding of syllables. 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.
A few weeks ago, Granddad gave Pat a big girl backpack. After that, Pat wouldn't leave the house without it. The backpack is big and red with black straps. It has a big zipper all around. She is so proud to wear it on her back, just like the big kids she sees walking to school every day.
Pat puts everything in her backpack. Her magnets go in one pocket. Her crayons go in another. Her favorite book goes in one side. Her snack goes in the other. Her nappy blanket goes right in the middle. Pat puts so much stuff in it that she cannot zip it up!
"Can I help you zip it?" I ask. "No! I do it myself," she says.
Pat takes out the blanket, but it still will not zip.
"Can I help you zip it?" I ask again. "No! I do it myself," she says. Pat takes out the magnets, but it still will not zip.
"Can I help you a bit, Pat? You can do the rest," I say.
"Yes," says Pat, "you do a bit. I do the rest!"
I zip it a bit. Then Pat uses her chubby little fingers to pull the zipper all the way around.
Pat lifts up the zipped-up backpack with a smile. "Look! I do it myself!" she says proudly.