Rethinking How We Teach Sight and High Frequency Words

by | Mar 1, 2022 | 16 comments

In this episode of Literacy Talks our terrific trio of reading experts tackles the need to rethink and redesign the way we approach sight words and high frequency words in literacy instruction. Their advice centers around using phonics-based strategies to help learners connect the sounds and meanings of high frequency words, so they become part of students’ working memory. Hear all about it in this fascinating discussion among experts!

Season 1, Episode 1

16 Comments

  1. I recently found you after watching one of your edWeb webinars and I am so thankful for all of your insight! I know this is a completely different topic than sight words but you briefly said “when we used to do Writer’s Workshop…” So I’m wondering. What should we be doing now with writing? I do Writer’s Workshop with my kindergartners and now I’m thinking, uh oh! What should I be doing instead?!?

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  2. It was relevant to teaching students how to learn sight words in a stepped way, relating sound to spelling and spelling to sound without skipping methods and learners missing accurate spelling. I was encouraged to listen to more podcasts on Reading Horizons. Thank you for presenting it.

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  3. Thank you so much! I’m excited to listen to the rest. I did want to mention at the end with your disagreement, Kilpatrick says that when we use orthographic mapping, left to right is not always necessary. That when we’re reading, our brains are taking in all the graphemes and coding them into phonemes all at once, not necessarily in a left to right method. He says that sometimes readers find it easier to map words backwards, starting with the end of the word (often the rime) and adding the initials sounds after the rime. I have started using this with my students and definitely see the benefit. I know that you were particularly speaking about a Heart Word routine, but just thought I’d share. Thank you! 🙂

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    • Hi Julianna,

      This is awesome. Thank you for sharing! It is great to hear you’re using the backward decoding strategy to support students and finding it successful! It is a good strategy for students who guess at words or need support with the vowel and/or ending sounds. This strategy comes in handy when teaching special vowel combinations (-ll, -ng, and -nk) since those consonants can change the sound of the vowel sound. We are glad you like the podcast, keep listening and sharing your thoughts!

      Jillian Kaster
      Reading Horizons Community and Advocacy Manager

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  4. could you please send me a certificate for this

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    • Hello Mary,
      Can you please give more details? Are you looking for professional learning hours or credit?
      Thank you,
      Jillian Kaster
      Community and Advocacy Manager

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  5. How would you help a teacher understand why RH starts with the word “the” when we are encouraging orthographic mapping and digraphs and schwa have not been taught? It becomes a heart word in both phoneme parts which does not allow teachers to begin word instruction orthographically.

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    • Christine Rick, That is a great question! “The” is the most common word in the English language. I believe it’s introduced early in the sequence because it allows students to put the skill words they are learning into context via the decodable sentences on the Transfer Cards, Decodable Readers, and in Sentence Dictation. As we say, words only practiced in isolation stay in isolation. Once your students get to the TH digraph in the phonics lesson sequence the word “the” should be revisited, now with only one part they have to know by heart.

      Jillian Kaster
      Community and Advocacy Manager

      Reply
  6. I am so glad you circled back to the order in which we teach the irregular parts of the MCW. This is something I always second guess myself on when I am teaching high-frequency words, and I am always worried I am “doing it wrong”. After listening to the podcast I am giving myself more grace here. It sounds like you both start with the decodable parts first.

    MaryAnn, one piece that has helped my students with the phonemic awareness piece is using pop-its and Elkonin boxes to segment the sounds of the words before we write them. First, students listen to a word. (We put the word in a sentence and make sure they know the meaning). Then students segment the sounds one at a time while using the pop-it to “pop” each sound. However many bubbles popped is the number of chips needed for the Elkonin boxes. Students practice segmenting the word again, moving one chip per sound into the Elkonin boxes. After each time they segment the sounds of the word they blend the sounds back together to say the word in whole. After they have segmented the sounds with the pop-it and the Elkonin boxes, I “facilitate” orthographic mapping by changing out the chips for letters and explicitly showing which letters represent which sounds. Students move sound by sound replacing their chips and writing in the corresponding letters- just like Lindsay talks about in the podcast. Again we move from segmenting the sounds to blending as they read the word.

    I use the pop-its and Elkonin boxes with my 4th-grade students with dyslexia and ADHD and it has been a game-changer. Have you tried anything similar, Kirsten? How are you striving third-graders doing in phonemic awareness?

    Jillian Kaster
    Reading Horizons Community and Advocacy Manager

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  7. Great !!

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  8. I loved this inaugural episode and could relate to Lindsay’s journey as a kindergarten teacher. I spent three years teaching in a whole language district. We’d spend all this time and energy helping students learn the alphabet and sounds, only to bypass decoding while passing out the list of 100 words to memorize. Our words were made up of high-frequency words and words that would show up on the benchmark assessment. (Cringe.) I specifically remember teaching my advanced readers the word “fur” because it appeared in the Level e book, The Zoo, and students routinely got it wrong. It’s unfortunate to think that teaching them that u-r represents the /ər/ sound probably didn’t cross my mind. Instead, my kindergarteners were taught to memorize the word in whole, much like the other 99 words on their list. As Dr. Maya Angelou said, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”

    I am so thankful for this podcast resource, so collectively we can create learning opportunities that stick. As a coach, I’ve seen the Reading Horizons method (similar to the Heart Word method) implemented in classrooms. Watching students orthographically map the sounds to letters is simply amazing. Understanding this method and the Four-Part Language Processor has really helped me on my journey. I’m excited to hear about other people’s journeys and support them in any way I can. I know we are all at different paths of the learning curve, and the best step is the next step forward—one step at a time.

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  9. Congratulations on your first podcast! Well done! re: the debate about mapping the “tricky” parts of the word…Kilpatrick and Really Great Reading heart word strategy are both Team Kemeny 😉

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  10. Hi! I wish there was close captioning and or a transcript.

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  11. I teach the words by instructing the decodable parts first then the unfamiliar parts. I do see the necessity of teaching from left to right for longer words…or depending on the phonetic skills in the word…I may also instruct left to right.

    I currently teach third grade and would love to hear more information about what to do for students who are struggling with sight words at this level. How can I best support the learning of sight words at the third-grade level? I follow the Reading Horizons approach to teaching Most Common Words, but I find that some students are continue to struggle.

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  12. Oh, how I miss teaching. Mm. I used the same directions demonstrated here. And I acknowledge that some children will learn from identifying the regular components first and other children will benefit from having the tricky parts explored first. I need more instruction on phonemic awareness strategies to provide the strongest base for decoding.

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