Effective Strategies for Teaching High-Frequency Words

In general, high-frequency words are considered to be the most frequently occurring words in text. Students need to be able to recognize these words instantly in order to read fluently!

High-Frequency Word Facts

  • Only 100 words account for approximately 50% of the words in print. These words include the, of, to, was, for and if.
  • The most frequent 300 words make up 65% of all printed text.
  • Students should know the first 300 words by the 3rd grade.

Phonetic vs. Non-Phonetic “Discovery” Words

Many of the most frequent words are completely phonetic, allowing for students to decode their meanings efficiently and with ease. For example, that, with, and not are all phonetic words and can be decoded.

Other high-frequency words cannot be decoded or sounded-out. For example, of, was, and some are non-phonetic words requiring memorization. We call these words “Discovery Words”  since we must “keep digging” to discover which part of the word is not saying what we expect.

Some words must temporarily be treated as non-phonetic words requiring memorization until classroom instruction covers the rules they follow. For example, the word have follows the rule that English words should not end in ‘v’; therefore an ‘e’ is added. Most students will have to memorize have before that rule is introduced.

Most high-frequency word lists do not distinguish between phonetic and non-phonetic words. Students are required to memorize hundreds of high-frequency words — even those that follow standard, decodable patterns. This can be overwhelming for any student, but it can be particularly daunting for a struggling reader or a student with dyslexia.

At Syllables and Kendore, we simplify things by dividing high-frequency words into two categories: phonetic and non-phonetic. This dramatically lessens required memorization because students who have learned phonics rules can decode phonetic words efficiently and with ease.

For non-phonetic “Discovery Words,” the color red is associated with memorization so that words can be easily discernable at the time of instruction. Students will come to know that they must memorize words that are written in red. Commonly confused words like ‘saw’ and ‘was’ are not as confusing when students see the phonetic pattern in ‘saw’ and learn ‘was’ as a “Discovery Word.”

Teaching Tools for High-Frequency Word Instruction

The Discovery Dig Card Deck makes high-frequency word instruction fun and memorable! The Discovery Dig features over 100 of the most frequent sight words, explanation and instruction cards, and additional cards you’ll need to play War, Grab, and more. Play your way to reading and spelling success!

With our Discovery Word Book Set, students investigate non-phonetic sight words to figure out where the word has a spelling they have yet to discover. Use this bound book of reproducible masters to reinforce “Discovery Words” — non-phonetic high-frequency words.

Students will enjoy learning about non-phonetic high-frequency words with the Discovery Word Quicksand Kendore Kit. This kit comes with 36 high-frequency words printed on double-sided cards. Choose the non-phonetic word you wish to reinforce, and your student will see, spell, say, and shape the word with red clay.

Use the Discovery Word Wall to display and reinforce the most frequent non-phonetic sight words after you have introduced them. These “Discovery Words” do not follow basic phonics rules, yet students need to have these words orthographically mapped for basic reading and sentence construction!

Make the Most of Winter Break

Winter Break, when your child is not overwhelmed with school and extra-curricular commitments, is an excellent time to get ahead. Relaxed and rested children are more receptive to learning!

winter break tutoring at SyllablesThough we will suspend our regular schedule from Saturday, December 22nd through Tuesday, January 1st, we will still see students by appointment.

Current Syllables Students

Fit in a few sessions to get ahead and speed up progress. Multiple-hour sessions are available.

Syllables “Alumni”

Brush up on skills by scheduling a few refresher sessions. Don’t forget that we offer free assessments for our former students. Schedule your assessment now so that we can develop a plan for Winter Break.

High School and College Students

We work with older students on study skills and test taking strategies. Winter Break is an excellent time to focus on these critical skills. It’s also an excellent time for high schoolers to tuck in some SAT/ACT test prep.

Call us at 770-752-1724 for more information or to schedule.

Differentiating in the Classroom

The Kendore Kingdom curriculum is designed to benefit all students. Our activities enable teachers to continually assess student progress so that they can help struggling readers while also giving those who catch on quickly the opportunity to delve deeper. We recently received the following question from a Kendore-trained teacher and thought it was worth sharing.

Hi Jennifer,
What do I do if I have students in my group that already know or quickly grasp the understanding of sounds and letters? I want to make sure I attend to all the kids in my classroom, and not hold anyone back.
Sincerely,
Dealing with Mixed Levels

 
Hi Dealing with Mixed Levels,
Great question! All students can benefit from retrieval, memory and phonological awareness activities while building reading capacity. Teachers often confuse rushing through phonics as true reading instruction, but that would be like memorizing the rule book for a sport and never over-learning the fundamentals.

We want students of all levels to have a solid foundation before moving forward, and because our curriculum is full of activities all students are sure to stay engaged!

Here are some recommendations for providing your students with challenges while focusing on phonological awareness.

  • Provide students with a word and ask them to give you words that rhyme with it (e.g., cat, bat, hat). Discuss why the words rhyme by breaking down the sounds in the word.
  • Use Smiley Thumbs Up lists and have students identify words containing the target sounds for the week. You can always add more challenging words to test high performing students.
  • Lots of kids may know their sounds, but do they know how they’re produced? Talk to your students about how the sounds are made, where the air travels, tongue placement, etc., and ask them to watch themselves in a mirror for full kinesthetic learning.
  • Incorporate oral punctuation and oral sentence construction into your lessons! Watch this helpful demonstration to see how.
  • Try Magazine Madness, the activity where kids cut pictures from magazines into either syllables or phonemes. This can prove to be quite challenging!
  • Incorporate parts of speech into your lessons by using a MadLib to teach nouns, verbs and adjectives containing the target sounds.
  • Even high performers can build automaticity to increase their reading rate! Use fluency drills to build sound retrieval, and pair off students of similar levels to time each other.
With card games, memory building activities, Sound Track and more, the possibilities are endless!
Please contact us if you need more ideas or have a question you’d like answered. We may feature it in a future blog post.

Chunking Information Helps Students Remember What They Learn

When delivering new content to students (particularly struggling learners), it is important to chunk information into small, digestible parts. Why?

By breaking content into smaller bits, and presenting it gradually over a period of time, we maximize retention rates in the classroom because chunking makes more efficient use of working memory. A child is more likely to remember twenty vocabulary words if they are presented with two or three new words each day rather than all at once.

Watch this short video to hear Jennifer Hasser explain why this strategy helps students succeed!

 

 

 

 

 

Putting Things in Perspective: Timeline for Intervention

Oh, the back-to-school craziness! The lazy days of summer have come to an abrupt end and our homes and minds swirl with more logistics than we can possibly manage. The worry we felt in May has faded, so when it comes to jumping into fall tutoring, it’s easy to pause and say, “we’ll just wait and see how things go.”

If you have a child who struggles, it’s important to make choices with a long term perspective. Remediating a learning issue gives children the skills and tools they need for a lifetime. If that voice inside your head is telling you there is a problem, don’t wait…listen!

In this quick video, Jennifer Hasser puts learning struggles in perspective to help you as you make choices for your child.

Why We Teach Sounds Before Letters

“Letter of the Week” is NOT Good Practice

It’s very common practice in preschool and kindergarten classrooms to introduce the “letter of the week.” While this method of teaching is based on good intentions, it presents problems when children are learning to sound out words (decode) and write (encode). Learning letters limits children because some important sounds in the English language are not represented by single letters (for example, /ch/, /sh/, /ow/ and /au/).  Also, alternate spellings get confusing when one sound is pegged to one letter.

Why We Teach One Sound at a Time

There are only 44 sounds in our language and the rapid automatic retrieval of those sounds is the foundation of reading. Regardless of age, in order for a student to be a fast and accurate reader, the sounds must be mastered. If a student is not able to retrieve the sounds efficiently, their accuracy and comprehension will suffer. EVERYTHING else in reading is secondary to this crucial first skill.  Once a student shows mastery, he or she will move ahead to increasingly more complex concepts.

Watch Kendore Learning Executive Director Jennifer Hasser explain in greater detail.

Advanced Multisensory Activities

Adapting Activities for REVLOC

This blog post highlights how the multisensory Kendore activities teachers know and love can be altered to help students work on advanced concepts, including syllable types (“REVLOC”). If you’ve attended our webinars or trainings, you may be familiar with these activities! If you would like to know more about our accredited curricula and trainings, check out our website or contact us.

Hot Lava

Early in the curriculum, teachers learn how to use the Code Quest Consonant and Vowel decks to play Hot Lava to test their students’ automaticity. Quick recap: Set down a series of cards on the ground and ask your student to say the sound before hopping to the next card. If the student incorrectly identifies the sound, they fall into “hot lava” and have to go back to the beginning. Students love using their imaginations with this activity, pretending to meet a fiery demise when they misstep.

The UNLOCK REVLOC deck is perfect for Hot Lava! Lay down two or three syllable cards next to each other to form a multisyllabic word. Ask students to read the word and then hop on it to stay “safe.” Create a path of these words. Note that the word you form with the REVLOC cards do not have to be real words because students need practice decoding both real and nonsense words in order to know how to apply the rules you are teaching.
You can also create a path using a variety of single syllable cards. Ask the students to cross the “hot lava” by jumping only on a certain syllable type, or by naming the syllable type before they jump on the card. For a Hot Lava reminder, watch our demonstration video.

Beach Ball Toss

This Kendore activity is an excellent way to get students up and moving while they practice identifying the six syllable types!

Place cards from the UNLOCK REVLOC deck inside the pockets of the Toss and Teach Beach Ball. Toss the ball back and forth and ask your student to read the card their thumb lands on and identify what syllable type is represented. Advance to having the student read two cards next to each other on the beach ball so that they can practice decoding and smoothly reading multisyllabic words. Remember that having them practice reading real and nonsense words will help them build automaticity.
For a reminder about how to use the Toss and Teach Beach Ball, watch our demonstration video.

Syllable Tracking

If you’re trained in our curriculum, you’ve been working with your students on Sound Track since their very first Kendore lesson. Now that they’ve been introduced to some of the syllable types, they can work on Syllable Tracking. This activity follows the same structure as Sound Track, but now each rainbow token will represent one syllable. Therefore, your student will work on strengthening their memory skills by recalling a multisyllabic nonsense word, identifying which syllable is changing, and showing the change.
If you have any questions about these activities, please contact us. We would be more than happy to help!

GURRRRRR! R-Controlled Vowels

The letter <r> becomes very bossy when it follows a vowel! This letter affects the sound a vowel makes, giving a vowel followed by an <r> the name “r-controlled vowel.”

Tricky R-Controlled Vowels: ‘er’, ‘ur’, and ‘ir’

Growing r tiger helps teach r-controlled vowels.In the Kendore Kingdom, we call these three r-controlled vowels “growling r” vowels because rather than letting the vowel say its sound or name, the <r> makes the vowel growl like a tiger.  Growling r vowels are vowel digraphs since they are two letters representing one sound.

Since <er>, <ur>, and <ir> all sound the same, spelling these digraphs can be tricky. It helps to know that <er> is the most common spelling of the /er/ sound (40%), <ur> is the second most common (26%), and <ir> is the least common (13%). When all else fails and the student does not know the proper spelling, knowing frequency will help students make an educated spelling guess.

‘ar’ and ‘or’

While <r> still controls the sound of /ar/ and /or/, these r-controlled vowels have unique sounds — making them easier for children to spell.

Teaching R-Controlled Vowels

The Kendore Kingdom features a memorable story about Growling ‘r’ tiger.  Poor Growling ‘r’ hasn’t learned his manners and he growls when introduced to new friends. Children remember the adventures of Growling ‘r’ tiger and translate this story into an understanding of r-controlled vowels. If you are a Kendore-trained teacher, be sure to refer to your manual for instructions on using Growling ‘r’ tiger to teach your students r-controlled vowels.

When writing/spelling a word with an r-controlled vowel, students will often incorrectly reverse the <r> and the vowel. In many words, reversing the two letters will still produce a real word (barn/bran, arm/ram). Dot and Jot (phoneme/grapheme mapping) can help students prevent these transpositions.

Tiger Trek Card Games

Tiger Trek card games are a fun, multisensory way to reinforce r-controlled vowels. Tiger Trek can be used to play many games, including War, Rummy, Memory, Go Fish and more! The Tiger Trek deck contains both real and nonsense words in order to assess concept knowledge and discourage rote memorization. Students should be able to decode nonsense words such as ‘fram’ and ‘terk’ as well as real words.

Watch a demonstration of Tiger Trek games.

Order a Tiger Trek card deck.

Our Language Makes Sense

All too often, we hear people say that the English language doesn’t make sense and that spelling and word meaning “just have to be memorized.” This couldn’t be further from the truth! Our language does make sense…if you know the rules.

Let’s stop telling our students that our language is illogical, and let’s teach them the tools they need to easily break the code to read and spell thousands of words.

Dyslexia Legislation Passes in Georgia

Karen Huppertz serves as the Director of Training for Kendore Learning, the teacher training division of Syllables Learning Center. She is currently the President of the International Dyslexia Association, Georgia Branch, where she helps coordinate IDAGA's advocacy efforts.

Karen Huppertz serves as the Director of Training for Kendore Learning, the teacher training division of Syllables Learning Center. She is currently the President of the International Dyslexia Association, Georgia Branch, where she helps coordinate IDAGA’s advocacy efforts.

By now you may have heard that Senate Bill 48 has passed a final vote in the Georgia legislature. Governor Kemp is expected to sign the bill into law this month. While this is a great step in the right direction, don’t anticipate rapid change. SB48 states that local school systems will not be required to screen all kindergarten students for dyslexia until the beginning of the 2024-2025 school year.

What SB48 Will Do

In a nutshell, the new law will establish a standard definition of dyslexia, set forth a timeline for mandated dyslexia screening, and begin the process of educating teachers about dyslexia. It does not address intervention beyond that currently used in schools, and does not mandate particular reading curricula.

Definitions – SB48 will provide a legal definition of dyslexia based on the International Dyslexia Association’s definition and specifically acknowledges the importance of phonemic awareness (the ability to recognize that words are made up of a sequence of sounds and be able to manipulate them for reading, writing and speaking).

The bill further states that a ‘qualified dyslexia screening tool’ will need to measure phonological awareness skills, phonemic decoding efficiency, sight word reading skills, rapid automatic naming skills, and accuracy of word-reading of grade-level text. These are important steps toward educating teachers in Georgia and are exactly what we do when screening students here at Syllables.

Policies – Based on these steps, the new law will require the State Board of Education to develop policies for referring students in kindergarten through third grade for dyslexia screening “who have been identified through the RTI process” no later than July 1, 2020. These new policies will also include a list of approved dyslexia screening tools for schools, a process for letting parents know the results of the screening and a process for monitoring student progress after screening.

Teacher Training – SB48 also requires the Department of Education to collaborate with the Professional Standards Committee to improve and update professional development opportunities for teachers specifically relating to dyslexia. By Dec. 30, 2019, the Professional Standards Commission will create a ‘Dyslexia Endorsement for Teachers’ trained in dyslexia awareness and how to use a dyslexia screening tool. This is a step in the right direction but does not mean teachers will be trained in remediation for dyslexic students.

Kindergarteners in Georgia will be screened for dyslexia under SB48.Pilot Program – The new law requires the State School Superintendent to establish a 3-year pilot program to “demonstrate and evaluate the effectiveness of early reading assistance programs for students with risks factors for dyslexia” beginning with the 2020-2021 school year.

Dyslexia Screening in all Schools – Beginning with the 2024-2025 school year, local school systems will be required to screen all kindergarten students for dyslexia. At the same time, students in grades one through three will be screened if they have been identified through the RTI process.

At the College Level – Finally, SB48 requires (but without a deadline) the Professional Standards Commission to include dyslexia awareness information in teacher preparation programs for elementary and secondary education instruction. New teachers coming out of colleges and universities will enter the classroom knowing the definition of dyslexia, how to spot the signs and screen students, and what kinds of instruction will help. This does not require teachers be trained in good instruction.

Many parents will say this is not enough, and not soon enough. While we agree, we have watched other states attempt aggressive legislation just to see it fail. Dyslexia advocates like those at the International Dyslexia Association Georgia and Decoding Dyslexia Georgia will continue to work toward strengthening dyslexia legislation in Georgia.

At Syllables Learning Center, our greatest hope is that one day all teachers will be trained to identify students with dyslexia in kindergarten. Our teacher training division,  Kendore Learning, dreams of a day when all teachers are equipped with the training they need to help struggling readers in the classroom. This new law is an exciting step in the right direction. We are carefully following this legislation and will keep you updated.

Read the final draft of SB48 and don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions.

Learn about the signs and symptoms of dyslexia.