Hello! It’s week 4 of our Science of Reading Summer Book Study, Shifting the Balance with Mr.Greg (from Kindergarten Smorgasboard) and me, Abbie! This week is about Revising High-Frequency Word Instruction and is quickly becoming another hot topic in early literacy circles.

Sight Words vs. High Frequency Words

Over the years I have spent in Kindergarten and early childhood education, I have used the terms sight words and high frequency words interchangeably. With the exception of a mention here and there of sight words inside a professional development training, I have had no ‘formal education’ on teaching these words. I’ve read others’ philosophy on teaching sight words and watched mentor teachers and their techniques. I implemented strategies that I thought would work best with little learners, as well as hit the standards of my district that I was required to teach. But after reading this chapter, I recognize that I could have used this information a LONG TIME AGO!!

All high frequency words CAN be sight words, but not all sight words are high frequency words. (pg 91) High frequency words are words that show up most frequently in text like; the, was, you. And a sight word is any word that the brain recognizes automatically. Automaticity with word recognition helps readers to free up a lot of working memory, which then allows more attention for comprehension!

Tips for ‘Shifting’ High Frequency Word Instruction

Prioritize & Use a Scope & Sequence for High Frequency Word Instruction

One of the first things that I did when evaluating the way I taught high frequency words, was to look at the order in which they were being introduced and taught. My district does not have a specific order in which they are to be taught, only that kindergarten students should master the 50 words by the end of the school year. Some phonics or reading programs have a scope & sequence to follow, but not having a boxed curriculum, I had to look at the 50 words and determine my own scope and sequence. I chose words that I knew my students would see in our beginning sentence building, such as I, a, the, like, see, etc. These words should come first, since they will be seeing them in pocket chart poems within the first 2 weeks of school. Next, prioritize those words and add them to your Alphabet Anchor Chart!

Model Phonology or Stretching out the Word

This is an imperative tip for little learners, since this is their first exposure to explicit instruction on letter/sound production. As the teacher, it’s our job to model and show the students HOW to stretch a word out and then what our mouth, lips, tongue and air flow is doing. Yes, this does seem a little awkward at first, but little learners NEED this type of instruction and modeling. Please don’t assume they know…99.9% of them do not already know. This is a great time to have everyone close their eyes, say the word and then count the syllables and individual sounds.

How to make the ‘L’ sound

Orthographic Mapping

I have been seeing many different videos and posts about Orthographic Mapping and so I was excited to see this discussed in this shift/chapter. Orthographic Mapping is just visually ‘mapping’ the word, so students can see how the sounds align, through their spellings. This helps students to analyze and connect to the word, giving them more opportunities to store it and it becoming a true sight word!

Orthographic Mapping (image from Keys to Literacy)

The use of Elkonin boxes helps to divide the word into phonemes and graphemes. I do this frequently with cvc words, but was always leery of trying it with irregularly spelled words or even sight words. But this has given me the push to try orthographic mapping words to help give students that visual support that they need, even in sight word instruction! No more excuses of ‘you can’t sound it out’…let’s mapped it out!! And the great thing about Orthographic mapping is that it can be done quickly and in a whole-group, small-group, or individual teaching setting.

Practice & Learning Opportunities

Do your students have multiple opportunities to practice not just reading high frequency words, but writing them as well? If not, re-think how you can provide a writing station, and/or include Elkonin boxes in learning tubs or with station materials. Do we give our students opportunities to not just memorize the word, but use it authentically? I love these play-doh sight word mats, since it gives students a chance to build the word, read it in context, and then write their own sentence with the high frequency word. This is authenticity.

Click Image to go to product in KC Store or you can find this in my Kindergarten Chaos TPT Store

I would love to hear your tips, tricks, suggestions, books to read, or even other teachers to follow, when it comes to high frequency word instruction. Let me know if this shift has changed your mind on how you teach ‘sight words’.

I love to hear your feedback and thoughts! Leave a comment below or head over to my Instagram or FB page to share your opinion! All are welcome!!

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