High Frequency Words, Sight Words, Snap Words…. Whatever you call them, kids need to learn them! They are words that can’t be sounded out. Words that appear most frequently in their reading and their writing. Just like with my previous blog post on phonics, high frequency words need to be taught and then students need to practice using the words.
Introducing the Sight Word
I introduce one word a week, maybe two. Kindergarten does do fewer high frequency words per year than the other grades. I try to keep the word secret all week so that students get excited to hear what this week’s word will be. When I show them the word of the week, I say it and have them repeat it twice. Then we use it in a sentence. After that, I tell them what makes it a difficult word- for example, in the word “are” there are three letters, but only 1 sound! How funny! I talk a lot about how English loves to trick you – especially with these high frequency words.
Sight Word Poetry:
After I have introduced the word, I give the students a poem for the week that focuses on that sight word. These are often seasonal poems that I have found from many different resources. Sometimes the students are highlighting the word and sometimes they are writing in the word. After finding or writing the high frequency word, they then have to read the poem and then draw what the poem makes them think of. This is a routine that stays the same every week of the whole year.
These poetry folders go home at the end of every week and come back to school on Monday. It is a great way to practice reading the sight words, as well as practice fluency with their families.
Sight Word Emergent Readers:
In addition to the weekly sight word poem, I give my students a weekly sight word emergent reader. These simple readers have students trace the word on every page, which gives them practice of writing the sight word. Then they read the book and color it. These books then go directly into their book bags for the students to practice reading independently, which helps them transfer the identification of the word to actually reading the word in context.
Some of these stories have actually been digitized to support different reading strategies. Check out this one specifically on finding and reading sight words!
A sneaky way to incorporate high frequency words into our everyday activities, is to include a password outside our door. This password is the sight word that we have introduced that week and it remains up until the following week. We practice saying the word every time we come into the classroom. Then when it is time to change the weekly word, I ask the students to write it down on the morning message question.
High Frequency Word Wall:
An important routine for every classroom is a way for the students to find the high frequency words for reading and writing. They need to feel independent and confident in their ability to spell and read these words when they are not the word of the week. This means that they need to know where they can find the word to find the “dictionary spelling” as I call it.
Sight Word Tracker:
So how do I keep track of all the sight words my students know? I have a handy-dandy graph that I use to assess my students monthly on all 25 words they need to know in kindergarten. Usually, I start in January, unless a student is already reading higher reading levels. I highlight the words that they know and then fill in the graph to show the students their growth over the year. This is also a great tool to show parents at conferences. This and other similar assessments are available in my teachers pay teachers store.
Extra Resources for Small Groups:
Some students need extra support to learn these sight words, especially transferring the knowledge of the individual word to their reading and writing. For these students I have a few activities that I do a lot with my small groups, just change up the words. It is helpful to keep the routines and activities the same, but add in new words they are working on.
Roll, Read, and Write
There are many versions of this, but it is a classic. The students have 6 high frequency words they are working on and they roll the dice to see which high frequency word they will then read and then write down. I love to laminate these or put in dry erase pouches so that they can be used over and over. The piece that students may skip out on, if they are not in a small group with a teacher, is the reading part. This is the best way to get them to practice reading the words over and over again, so make sure they don’t skip that step!
This goes by other names, I know, but I call it “Kaboom”. We write the sight words that the students are working on, on popsicle sticks. Then we add in a few extra popsicle sticks that say “Kaboom”. Students have to pick a stick from a jar and read the word. If they read the sight word, then they keep the stick. If a student picks a stick that says “Kaboom”, then all the sticks go back in the jar!
This is another classic and so easy to change for any skill- definitely a great routine for your kids to know. Students have to read the sight words in their deck and ask their friends if they have it. Want to get more bang for your buck? Have students make their own cards to add in writing of the words!
A fun and engaging way to practice reading sight words is to put out sight words on a table or the board or the rug and call out a word. Then students, holding a fly swatter, will try and be the first to hit the right word. If they do, they get to keep it. Play until all the words are done.
Highlight Tape Find and Seek
This is a great way to transfer the skill of reading the words in isolation to reading the words in context. You can use real highlighters in a paper book or highlighting tape in real book, to find the sight words your students are working on. Once they find those words, they can be responsible for reading them in the book with you.
This is another great way to transfer the knowledge of identifying the words to writing the words independently. When writing a story as a group, give students the responsibility of one high frequency word to write every time it comes up. This will help give students the practice of writing this word but also the authentic context of using it.
High frequency words come very easily to some students, and others need more exposure and practice to transfer the skill of simply identifying the word in isolation and using it in their reading and writing. Are there any of these activities that you have tried already? Comment below and let me know what you think of them! And please tag me on Facebook, Instagram or twitter if you try and share any of these ideas – I’d love to see how they work with your students!