High frequency words are words that appear frequently in the English written language. Some examples of high frequency words are: is, the, of, my, said, you, was, they… High frequency words are often difficult to read phonetically as they do not follow regular spelling patterns. Successful readers can easily identify high frequency words without having to spend time decoding them. They have committed these words to memory and can recognize them by sight, hence they are often referred to as sight words. Learning to recognize high frequency words quickly and without analysis is an important part of reading. Once children can read these words automatically, they can begin to construct meaning in a sentence, which is another important reading skill.
Learning to Read High Frequency Words
In kindergarten, learning to read high frequency words is an essential part of learning how to read. On average, our students would learn to read 100 high frequency words by the end of the year. Although memorizing these words can seem daunting, there are MANY ways to make this task FUN! To help make teaching high frequency words easy and enjoyable for teachers and parents, we have included a free downloadable high frequency words list. We also share how we taught high frequency words in our classrooms, and have included some easy to implement and fun (not to mention FREE) high frequency word activities for kids to do at home or in the classroom.
List of High Frequency Words
Fry’s first 100 Words List is one of the most commonly used lists of high frequency words for kindergarten and first grade. Jan Richardson also has a great list, which is based on Fry’s list, but the progression is more developmentally appropriate for kindergarten. If you are looking for a high frequency word list for kindergarten or first grade, either of these lists will work great! We have used both lists in our classrooms and have included this downloadable copy of Fry’s First 100 words.
How to Teach High Frequency Words
High frequency words can be taught many different ways. In the classroom, we recommend using a variety of times and techniques to teach these words. Below are some examples of when and how we teach high frequency words.
A great time to teach high frequency words is during guided reading. Guided reading allows teachers to differentiate instruction and intentionally choose high frequency words tailored specifically for a small group of children. We generally start our guided reading lessons with a quick sight word game. Some of our favorites are:
- All Mixed Up – In this game, students are given specific plastic letters to spell a high frequency word. First, they read the word. Then, they mix up the letters and put them back in order, while saying each letter. Finally, they read the word again.
- Silly Writing -Students use dry erase markers to write the sight word 3 or 4 different ways (fast, slow, big, little) on a white board. They have to say each letter as they write it and then read the word before erasing and writing it again.
- What’s Missing – For this game, students read the word then close their eyes. Teacher removes (or erases) one letter and students have to guess which letter is missing. Then the teacher replaces the letter, everyone reads the word and the game repeats.
All of our guided reading books come with complete lesson plans and include details on how to play each of these games.
We also teach high frequency words regularly to the entire class during literacy skills with our Letter of the Week Books. These books are packed with sight words that progress through Jan Richardson’s High Frequency Words List with each book.
Literacy stations or centers are a great place for sight word practice and we have some fun sight word worksheets that work great for this. We also have some FREE worksheets for you to try out. You can place these worksheets in page protectors and have your kids use dry erase markers for a little extra fun (and to save on copies).
Another great teaching technique is to use those teachable moments and notice high frequency words whenever they appear organically in your lessons. For example, if the word the appears in my teaching objective, I will explain that the is a sight word and we will all take a quick moment to read it, write it in the air, spell it with our eyes closed and then read it again. This only needs to take a few seconds and can help teach, practice and reinforce mastery of that word. Every time we learn a new sight word as a class, it is added to the word wall. As every great teachers knows, word walls are an essential part of the classroom and a good way to reinforce sight words.
More Fun Opportunities
Another fun and easy opportunity to teach sight words is to keep one or two words on a lanyard around your neck. Then, anytime a child needs to use the restroom or get a drink, they must read the word. If they don’t know it, read it to them and have them repeat it a few times before they go.
Teaching sight words should happen all day long and can be fun and simple. Be creative! Mastery of high frequency words is really just memorization, so the more interactions your children have with these words, the sooner they will master them.
Activities with High Frequency Words
Here at 4 Kinder Teachers, we have compiled a list of high frequency word games. These games are low prep, fun, easy, and can be played at school or at home. They are a great tool for families looking to provide extra high frequency words practice for their children. We have included a FREE pdf version of these high frequency word games for you to download. Here are some fun games you can play to help your children learn high frequency words:
Sight Word Games
- Sight Word Snowball Fight: Write the sight words you are practicing on separate sheets of paper (we recommend working on no more than 3 to 5 sight words at a time). Be sure to only write 1 word per sheet. It is helpful to use a mixture of words your child can read independently and a few they are still learning. For example, you may want to use 9 sheets of paper. On 3 of them write a word your child can read (i.e. the); The next 3 pages, write a high frequency word your child is learning (i.e. is); For the last 3 pages, write another high frequency word that your child is learning (i.e. and). In this example, your child is practicing a total of 3 sight words: the, is, and. Now crumple up the sheets of paper and throw them at each other! Snowball fight! Next, your child has to open and read each page before he/she can crumple and throw them again.
- Paper Plate Toss: Write sight words on paper plates. Children use the plates like Frisbees to throw after reading the word. They run to collect the plates and repeat.
- Concentration: Make a duplicate set of word cards and play Concentration with your child.
- Tic–Tac-Toe: Write sight words in the tic-tac-toe spaces. Take turns selecting a space to read. If read correctly, an X or O is placed on the space until someone wins.
- Sight Word Bingo: Make a game board with sight words. Play Bingo with your child.
- Sight Word Collage: Help your child look for sight words in catalogs, magazines or in the newspaper. Have them cut out the words and glue them to a poster to make a collage.
- Oh SNAP: Put the sight words on flash cards and put the flash cards into a jar. Write the word SNAP! or draw a sad face on a few flash cards and put them in the jar also. Kids can play in partners or in groups of 3 or 4. They take turns pulling a card out of the jar. They get to keep the card if they can say the word on the card quickly and fluently. If they struggle, they have to put it back. When they pull out one of the cards that says SNAP! or with the sad face on it, they have to put back all of the cards they’ve drawn.
- Coin Toss: Put sight words on the floor. Children take turns tossing a coin onto a word and then read the word aloud.
- Flashlight Words: Tape words on the wall or ceiling. Turn off the lights. Shine the flashlight on a word and have your child read it.
- Beat the Clock: See how many times your child can write a sight word in 2 minutes, 1 minute, 30 seconds, etc.
- Painting Sight Words: Give your child a paint brush and water to “paint” the words on a fence or sidewalk. Be sure he/she reads the words before they dry.
- Stepping Stones: Place words on the floor so children can use them as stepping stones and read the words as they cross over the imaginary stream.
- Good Clean Words: Spread shaving cream on the counter top. Have children write words in the shaving cream.
- Rainbow Write Words: Write a large version of the sight word. Have your child trace it in all different colors while saying each letter. Have your child read the word before repeating with another color.
High Frequency Words Assessment
If you are wondering how your child or student is doing with high frequency word memorization, use this FREE High Frequency Words Assessment. Have your child read each word. Please note that if your child/student has to spend time decoding or sounding out the word, then they have not committed the word to memory and it should not count as a word read. High frequency words need to be read quickly and fluently. In our classrooms, we expect our students to know close to 100 words by the end of kindergarten. Knowing this amount of sight words, coupled with other important reading strategies, enables our students to read at a DRA level 6 or higher, thereby ensuring they are reading at or above grade level.
A child’s ability to learn high frequency words plays an important part in ensuring his/her success as a reader. Learning high frequency words can be an enjoyable activity for everyone!
We at 4 Kinder Teachers have created some great Sight Word Practice Worksheets to help make teaching sight words easy!