High frequency words are words that students encounter frequently in reading and writing. It is critical that readers and writers develop automatic recognition of high frequency words, a skill that leads to fluency. Students need to be able read about 300 high frequency words "instantly" without hesitation, because these words make up 65% of all written material. Comprehension begins to break down when students are focused on trying to decode or sound out words.
Many high frequency words are called "Sight Words". Sight words do not follow regular phonetic rules. They do not follow easy spelling patterns (example: cave, save, wave, gave, have). As a result, these words are more difficult for students to master. Asking a child to "sound it out" is pointless with this type of word and generally causes increased frustration for beginning and struggling readers. Young readers need to recognize these words as "sight word". In order for students to retain a difficult word, they need many opportunities to experience and manipulate it.
Much of our language has been adapted from other languages during its development. It is interesting that only one-sixth of the words survived from Old English and almost all of those words are sight words.
A prime example of the importance of high frequency words in a piece of text can be seen in counting the number of sight words in a simple version of The Three Bears. Another reality check is for looking for high frequency words in the story problems in your child's daily math lessons.
Below you will find a few ideas for practicing these words. These suggested ideas are for you to help your child become a better reader. Not all ideas are suited for your child so please pick the ideas that are best for you and your young reader.
There are also many free website games available to help your child master these words. Please remember to monitor your child at all times while on the internet.
PRACTICING SIGHT WORDS AT HOME
USE PLASTIC LETTERS
You can buy a set of plastic magnetic letters at the Dollar Store. Have your child put the letters on a cookie sheet or refrigerator to make the word, then read it. Later, encourage him/her to make the word, read the word, cover the word, write the word, check the word, read the word. (Children may peek at the word if necessary while they are learning to write it correctly.)
USE A DRY ERASE BOARD
Write the word over and over until it is learned, erasing each time. This is a writing task, not a copying task. If your child is using paper and pencil, fold the paper over each time or use another paper or card to cover the previous word. If your child needs a model to start with, provide it. Then cover it and allow him/her to peek if necessary. Then remove it altogether. Encourage your child to make sure the words are in his/her head.
I HAVE, WHO HAS?
Make cards for this game to practice sight words. I have "the," who has "from?"
As you go through the stack of cards, ask your child to read in the following voices: baby, robot (monotone), goofy, scary, mad, old.
Have your child go through a poem, worksheet, math homework, or decodable book and highlight the sight words.
Write 10 words on index cards and have your child sort them into ABC order, then read the list several times. Repeat, adding and taking away words each time.
COMMERCIAL GAMES & ACTIVITIES
Any games with cards to read or letters to manipulate:
Scrabble Go Fish Bingo Boggle
Lotto hunks Word Search Hang Man