Parents, is your child’s teacher sending home high-frequency words for them to memorize? I have a tip that will help your child learn to automatically recognize those high-frequency words. (Sometimes called “sight words.” Hint: It’s not flashcards!
Next time your child is struggling to turn high-frequency words into sight words, (words that he or she can recognize immediately when reading), try this. According to the body of reading research known as the science of reading, this practice method is a more effective and efficient way to build word automaticity.
Here’s how it works…
- Say the word. For example, “can”
- Count the sounds you hear in the word: “I hear 3 sounds: /c/, /a/, /n/”
- Write the letter or letter that represents each sound: “We know that c can spell the /c/ sound. a spells the /a/ sound. n spells the /n/ sound.” Write each letter as you say them.
- Read the word.
But what about tricky words? Most tricky words are actually mostly decodable using common sound spellings. If they aren’t fully decodable, just follow the same procedure, but take time to point out and discuss the tricky part. This tricky part may be a truly irregular spelling, or it may just be a spelling pattern your child has not learned yet. Either way, you can point it out and tell your child that they will have to memorize that part, but they can sound out the rest of the word.
- Say the word: “said”
- Count the sounds you hear in the word: “I hear 3 sounds: /s/, /e/, /d/”
- Write the letter or letter that represents each sound: “We know that s spells the /s/ sound. d spells the /d/ sound. The tricky part of this word is that the ai spells the /e/ in this word. ai is an irregular way to spell the /e/ sound. Usually, we would use the e to spell /e/. So we just need to memorize that tricky part.“
- Read the word.
It’s fine to just write the words on a piece of scrap paper, or a whiteboard. I like to use grids to visually break up the word with one sound per box. This method is called phoneme grapheme mapping.
If you are a homeschooling parent, or a teacher interested in using phoneme grapheme mapping in your classroom, this resource by Kathryn Grace is a must read.
This method works much better than drilling with flashcards or any other activity that encourages students to memorize the shape of the word.
Recent science of reading research on teaching sight words supports incorporating phonics into our sight word instruction. Again, many of the high-frequency words we want children to recognize by sight actually follow regular phonics patterns. (And those that don’t are often mostly decodable.)
We can help students permanently store words in their brains as “sight words” when we use phonics methods in our sight word / high-frequency word / heart word routine.
If you want additional practice to help your child with high-frequency words, you might want to try these practice sheets that I created. Click here to learn more and see a preview. Each practice page in this resource includes phoneme grapheme mapping, and other activities that help students to attend to the sequence of letters, which are two phonics activities we can use to promote word automaticity.
Looking for the printable I used in the picture above? It’s part of this collection of phonics teaching slides. You can also get the page for free by clicking on the image below. 🙂