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.
- Bossy "r" Sounds: Students practice listening for the r-controlled vowel sound within words. They are introduced to the "bossy r" that bosses the vowel sound to make a different sound.
- 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.
- 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 Editing: Students apply their growing knowledge of letter-sound connections to edit a shared sentence from the decodable text or content from the Integrated Literacy block. They apply the rules of spelling, capitalization, spacing, and punctuation to edit the sentence.
- 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 are introduced to the r-controlled syllable type by examining how "-r" alters the sound of the vowels "a" and "o." The cycle begins with one-syllable words and then moves to two-syllable words by pairing an r-controlled syllable with a closed (example: "gar-den") or with an open (example: "mo-tor") syllable type. Students continue to notice how suffixes can change the meaning of a word. 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.
James looks out the window, and what does he see? It is the moon. "Look, it is smiling at me," says James. That gives James an idea!
James grabs Pat by the hand and says, "Pat, you are in for a treat! It is dark. It is not storming tonight, so the sky is clear. It is time to see Mars!" Pat claps her hands and says, "Let's go!"
Pat and James start to walk to the park. But it is not warm, so they go back and grab a scarf for Pat. James puts on Grandad's hat, and it is way too big on him. That makes Pat giggle as they walk down the street. "It is a short walk to the park," says James. "But it is a long way to the stars!"
When they get to the park, they look up in the dark. "There are so many stars!" says James. "There is the North Star!" But it is hard for Pat to see the star.
"Mars is so far away. Look for the red. Just look very hard," says James. But it is still hard for Pat to see. She does not see Mars. She does not see the North Star.
James and Pat go to the yard in the park, away from the streetlights. "We can see more stars here in the dark," says James. Pat stands on a log to make herself tall. "That is better," says James. Then Pat grabs his arm. "Mars!" says Pat. "I knew you could see it!" says James.
"I go to bed with stars?" asks Pat. "No, we can't sleep out here tonight, Pat. That would not be safe. And it would be too cold! But we will do it again," says James. Pat waves her little hand into the dark. "Bye, stars; bye, Mars."
As Pat and James leave the park, Pat takes his arm. "I have fun looking at Mars for a while!" The moon follows them home, still wearing a smile.