What is High Frequency Word and Why Should I Teach Them?
A high frequency word is known by a lot of names (sight words, snap words, trick words, heart words, etc.) but they are words that are used a lot in the texts that the students are reading and cannot be sounded out using the typical phonics rules (or the rules that the students currently know). Because students can’t use the phonics rules they know to sound out the word, they have to memorize the word. These words are also the words that they see a lot in their texts so being able to look at the word and know it by heart, without having to figure it out each time, will make their reading much more fluent. What high frequency words should I teach in kindergarten? Don’t worry – this blog post will share some ideas!
Teachers should teach their students strong foundational phonics skills and rules. However, that won’t be enough. There will be some words students need to learn how to read by heart. Many high frequency words will also be a great preview for future phonics rules that the children will learn. For example, the word “say” will introduce the idea that -ay says the long “a” sound.
What High Frequency Words Should I Teach in Kindergarten?
Each curriculum and school district will have their own list of words that kindergarteners are expected to learn each year. Teachers should definitely consult these lists first. These are the 25 words that I assess my kindergarten students on, as well as the other words that I teach throughout the year. I chose these based on words I have seen students struggle with in their reading and wanting to be able to write independently. In my classroom, I teach 1 high frequency word a week (not starting until about the 4th week of school or so). I have heard some schools teach 1 a day or 100 over the school year. Personally, I think that is way too much for kindergarten if it is expected they can read and write them all independently at the end of the year.
High Frequency Word Practice
How Do I Teach High Frequency Words?
When I teach my students the high frequency word for the week, I show them the word and we talk about how the word breaks the phonics rule they know or I introduce a phonics rule they don’t know yet. For example I introduce the word “you” by saying, this word is tricky because it sounds like one letter “u”, but it actually has 3 letters. You can sound out the “y” by the “ou” say “oo”. This can be true in other words with “ou”, but it’s not always the sound the letters make. We have to just know that in “you” “ou” say “oo”.
I am always telling my students that “English likes to trick you!” I do this to remind them of these tricks we learn in class and encourage them to persevere and not let English trick them while reading. This also reassures them that, yes, it is hard to learn to read and write, and it’s not just them that find it tricky.
Then we always practice reading the word in our poem of the week and writing the word in our sight word book. The children get to keep these poems and books and read them during reader’s workshop, as well as take them home to practice with their families.
Talking to students about the part of the word that breaks the phonics rules they know is an important strategy that teachers are using when teaching reading with more of a science of reading approach. It’s called “heart words” because you draw the heart on the part of the word that students need to just know by heart. I love the resource Really Great Reading to help me see how to teach these words and also to show my students.
How Do We Practice High Frequency Words?
As I mentioned earlier, weekly I introduce the word of the week and then students practice the word by reading and finding the word in their poem of the week. Then students practice writing the word in their sight word book of the week. After these two activities, I put the word outside the door as our password for the week. Students have to read the word to enter the room. You can get this password sign for free below! Once the week is up and we get a new high frequency word, this word moves to our word wall where students can find it when they need to remember how to read and write it.
High Frequency Word Games
In addition to these weekly routines, I have a bunch of high frequency word games that the students play during different phonics activities or literacy stations. Bingo is a great game to leave for a substitute. I always give my students the opportunity to practice reading and writing high frequency words by playing Roll, Read, and Write.
The students favorite activities to practice high frequency words in kindergarten are Tic, Tac, Snap, and Kaboom! Tic, Tac, Snap, is played just like Tic, Tac, Toe, but instead of x’s and o’s, students are writing their “snap” words. They write one high frequency word and their partner writes another. Whoever gets three in a row wins.
To play Kaboom, players take turns picking up cards with the words on them (popsicle sticks also work) and reading the words. This goes around the table or circle until someone picks up a “kaboom” card or stick. Once this happens, all the cards that have been picked by the group go back in the middle. The game can end here or you can play again and see who the next person to pick up “kaboom” will be!
You can get all of these games and more in my High Frequency Word Practice product!
Teachers shouldn’t worry, “What high frequency words I should teach in kindergarten?” but instead should focus on establishing a routine of teaching and practicing high frequency words with their students. Teachers can use high frequency words to teach their students about changes to the phonics rules they know or introduce them to new phonics rules they don’t know yet.