Category Archives: Sight/High Frequency Words

Teaching Reading through high frequency words

I am a phonics fan and believe that teaching phonics is very beneficial. It gives students sets of rules to follow and I think helps students become better spellers. But as I have found, teaching phonics can be very difficult to young children. Typically children have trouble in the beginning stages with blending letters to make words. Once they understand the blending process, I think it becomes easier.

Currently, my five year olds are having trouble with the concept of blending. I have tried several times to work on blending short “a” words such as bat, cat, gas, etc but they have trouble. I try to pick it up every now and then, but I have learned that if they are not developmentally ready, its best not to push it.

In the course of working on blending with them, I learned that they very easily remembered several words based upon sight and that they remembered how to spell the words (such as cat, dog, etc). So putting phonics aside for now, I decided to work on sight or high frequency words only. So I introduce words by lists ( small lists 3-5 words usually)and keep adding words and work our way up to phrases and then sentences. Now they can read simple sentences. I have found that the key is to be consistent (as with everything, really). Daily review is important. We lose a lot of ground if I don’t keep up. But it is hard to just dive into words lists with no plan. So I decided to make up a little program for us to follow to try to help keep us on track. When I have to sit there and pick the next list of words as we go along, it just doesn’t work out so well.

I will post a sample plan that I have devised. It may not work for all, but I thought it might help those who are new to the whole reading arena to help jump start their younger children with reading. I have learned to be okay with sight reading at the moment because it gets them reading sentences pretty quickly, masha Allah. (a few years ago I balked at the idea).

I learned that the girls were remembering the spelling of the words so I focus on having them learn how to spell the words in addition to reading them.

In case the process of how I set up my plan is helpful, I outline it below.

1. The Words

Alhamdulillah, you can find sight/high frequency words all around the net. Just searching for those key terms, you can wind up with many lists, no problem (e.g. gigglepotz, abcteach). In many places, the word lists are arranged into the following categories: pre-primer, primer, first grade, second grade, third grade. The lists are not generally arranged according to difficulty but as to how often they occur in children’s literature, the pre-primer occurring the most often. This was a big help as previously I had come across lists with just listings of the 100 most frequent words, etc.

So to begin with, I start with the pre-primer words. But how to introduce them, what order?

  1. Sequence
    About five years ago, I came across an article entitled “Teaching Sight Words,” by Laurel C. Preston. She proposed grouping the sight words into categories that would make them easier to remember. (e.g. action words (see, run); people (I, We, You). So I took the pre-primer list and attempted to arrange them by categories. Not all of the words fit into the categories that I made up (Ms. Preston was able to fit all but 3 of the 220 Dolch Sight Words into categories). But at any rate, I was working at putting something together which I thought would be more manageable for us.
    Here is a list of the pre-primer words, followed by my sequenced lists. Again, I only used 3-5 words per list.
    Pre Primer Words:a, and, away, big, blue, can, come, down, find, for, funny, go, help, here, I, in, is, it, jump, little, look, make, me, my, not, one, play, red, run, said, see, the, three, to, two, up, we, where, yellow, you
    My Sequenced Lists.Again, I compiled the lists based upon categories. All but the first, third, and thirteenth have “themes.”

Week 1: Miscellaneous: The, a (Updated 7/20: full week 1 lesson plan & activity pages)
Week 2: Animals: Dog, cat, pig (Updated 7/20: full week 2 lesson plan & activity pages

Week 3: Miscellaneous: is, can (full week 3 lesson plan and activity pages)
Week 4: Action words/Verbs: run, jump, go (full week 4 lesson plan and activity pages)
Week 5: Size: Big, little (full week 5 lesson plan & activity pages)

Week 6: Colors: Red, yellow, blue (full week6 lesson plan & activity pages)

(7/28/07) I have updated the list and it spans 16 weeks now. For the rest of the scope and sequence and supplementary material, please visit:
Weeks 2, 7, and 10 are not pre-primer words but are taken from the 95 Dolch nouns list. Nouns were added to make sentences that little readers can read.

  1. How to Teach
    Here are a few routines that I have developed to introduce/practice the sight words. The activities include letter recognition, drill, reading, spelling, and writing. Below is a generic outline. Insha Allah I will post more specific activities, including practice sentences for each list.
    First Session for each list:
    Tip: Keep a word list book (See TJ’s Reading Page to download). Write each word list on a separate page of the notebook. This will be used to introduce words and review words.

    1. Introduce the words on the list (in word list book) by reading to student; make sure student knows the meaning of each word. By this age, they probably do.
    2. Point to each word and have student spell out the letters in the word.
    3. Drill the student on the words by pointing randomly to different words on the list. Repeat several times.
    4. Show student the correct formation of each letter of each word in the list. Watch as student forms each letter. I usually have them do this several times until we get “good letters.” Then move on to having student write each word several times. I encourage my children to say each letter as they write it. At this point, my children are still working on recognition of the letters in the alphabet so this is good practice.
    5. If this is not the very first list, and you have enough words to build sentences or phrases, have student read sentences or phrases. As you start sentences, begin explaining to student about capitalizing the first word of a sentence and ending punctuation.This is a general outline for first time exposure to the words.

    Second Session:

  2. Review previous word lists quickly by having student spell the words (while looking if the list was just recently presented). You may even have students read sentences if you have started sentences.
  3. If student knows these words by sight, you can choose to move on to the next list.
  4. If student does not know the words, stay on this word list and:
  5. Drill. Continue drilling the words, but perhaps playing a game like bingo or bang or tic tac toe or the ladder game. (See Talibiddeen Jr’s Spelling page for directions for playing these games).
    Stay with the word list for subsequent sessions and play games until student has memorized the words by sight (and if you feel, being able to spell the words).Other tips:Give dictation daily. Either have the students orally spell the word or write it. You can give dictation anytime during the day, it doesn’t have to be formal.
    You may also want to keep a book of sentences that the student can read from during sessions or at any time of the day, these sentences being the new sentences that the student reads in the learning sessions (adding sentences as you go along).
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Posted by on July 19, 2007 in Sight/High Frequency Words