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.
- Vowel Sounds: Students segment and blend words with short and long vowel sounds. They begin to identify the types of vowel sounds they hear by analyzing the spelling of the word as well as the syllable type.
- Decoding Words with Vowel Teams: Students act as detectives to find the sound that "ow" and "ay" make. They discover they make one long sound ("ow" makes the long o sound; "ay" makes the long a sound). This adds to their knowledge of vowel teams because they realize consonants "w" and "y" can be part of a vowel team when they follow a vowel.
- 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 another spelling pattern that can represent a long vowel sound: the vowel team syllable type. They examine the teams "oa" (as long o), "ai" (as long a), and "ea" (as long e). Instruction begins with one-syllable words, then moves to the Syllable Sleuth instructional practice with two-syllable words (example: "raincoat"). 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 woke up one morning. He had slept pretty well, but he still felt tired and weak. He realized he also had a pain in his throat. Then he opened his mouth to call for his dad, and he could not even speak! He could only squeak!
Dad made breakfast for Sam, but he could not eat. Sam did not even want his crunchy toast. He could not get it down his scratchy throat. "Ouch, the pain is bad! I only want some oatmeal," Sam squeaked.
Sam could remember other times when his throat hurt this much. He knew Dad would know what to do. "You are burning up," Dad said. "You have a fever. We should go to the doctor. I will take you after we finish up our breakfast."
The doctor checked out Sam's throat. She said his tonsils were very red. "Not every sore throat is this bad, but you have had sore tonsils too many times," the doctor said. "If we take them out of your throat, you won't have to worry about this happening anymore. But you will have to go the hospital to have them removed."
Sam wanted to scream! He was scared it would hurt to have his tonsils taken out. "I know you are scared," said Dad. "But you will be safe at the hospital. The doctors will know what to do, and then you won't ever have to worry about a sore throat again and you will heal. And you will get to eat lots of ice cream!"
"Ice cream for breakfast, lunch, and dinner?" Sam asked. "Sure." said Dad. So Sam agreed.
After his tonsils were gone, Sam woke up. He asked, "Where am I?" He felt like he was in a dream. Sam's throat hurt, but the pain wasn't as bad as he thought it would be. Then he saw Dad and James. They had ice cream! James asked, "Would you like to eat?"
Sam smiled. Now he was very glad he had his tonsils out. "If this is a dream, it is a good dream! I get to have ice cream for all my meals!" said Sam.