With free English and Spanish templates to use at school or at home
High frequency words and sight words are words that beginning readers need to learn to start reading books fluently. What’s the difference? Sight words are words that kids know by sight – without decoding. Many are difficult for kids to decode (or solve) because they don’t follow normal phonics rules. Knowing how to read them by sight – memorizing them, not trying to sound them out – is a critical skill for young readers.
High frequency words are the most common words found in books. There are many high frequency word lists – most notably from Edward Dolch (list of 220 basic sight words) and Edward Fry (1000 Instant Words). These are common words that students need to learn how to read accurately and spell correctly – because they’ll see and use them often. There are high frequency word lists in English and in Spanish.
High frequency word instruction and practice is important in any early elementary classroom. And practicing these words is an easy and fun way parents can help their kids with reading at home. Students learning two languages will need to learn them in both languages!
Here are tenFUN and hands-on ways for kids to practice these words. And while you don’t need any special worksheets for any of these, I’ve made some templates to make it easier to set up these activities as an independent center in a bilingual classroom! 🙂
A quick note: the Spanish alphabet only has one more letter than the English alphabet: ñ. So some of the materials linked to below are Spanish, but some are English, because you can always add the dieresis (the wavy line above) to letter n to make your own ñ!
1. Write in shaving cream – Escribir en crema de afeitarse
Spread out some shaving cream (choose a foamy kind), and add some food coloring like we did if you’d like. Then write out a word at a time. This one is sure to be a fun and messy favorite!
2. Make the word with play dough – Hacer la palabra con plastilina
Either roll out play dough into long snakes and create the letters with the dough, or use something to write the word in the rolled-out play dough (like the alphabet cookie cutters I have, a marker lid, or a toothpick).
3. Play Flashlight Find – Jugar Buscar con linterna
For this game, you post the words that you’re working on somewhere – maybe a chalk or white board, a piece of paper with sticky notes, or even word cards spread out on the floor. Then have the student grab a flashlight. Say a word aloud and the child shines the flashlight as fast as she can on the correct word.
4. Show the word with letter tiles (or magnetic letters) – Mostrar la palabra con azulejos de letras (o letras magnéticas)
Grab some letter tiles like from Pairs for Pears, Scrabble, or other letter game. Or use magnetic letters and the fridge or other magnetic surface. Give the student a list or simply say the words aloud and have him make them with the letter tiles.
5. Play Beat the Clock – Jugar Gana el reloj
For this game, you’ll need to have some flash cards (or use blank index cards) of the words you’ve been working on. Set a timer for one minute, and have the child read as many words as she can during the minute. Parent/teacher, make a pile of the words read correctly, and a pile of words read incorrectly. Give the child about 2 seconds to read the word before moving on. Remember, you want it to be read on sight, not slowly decoded. *Bonus activity: make a bar graph together showing how many words the child (or the small group) read correctly each day of the week.
There are so many ways to use this activity! Ask students to walk around, search for, and write down words that follow a specific rule. Choose a rule based on your high frequency words for the week (or use this to review all the words kids have learned!). In English, write words that start with letter “m,” have three letters, or even start with digraph “th.” In Spanish, write words that start with letter “d,” have two syllables, or words that contain syllables “que” or “qui.”
7. Chant and clap the words – Cantar y aplaudir las palabras
This is a great activity to introduce new words – especially for language learners. Show a new word, and have kids echo you as you chant and clap the letters. For example, “Said! S-a-i-d!” Yell the letters while you clap each one, then whisper the letters, “s-a-i-d” or chant them like a cheerleader “s-a-i-d!” Then end with “said” again.
8. Draw pictures or make actions – Hacer un dibujo o hacer acciones
Pictures and actions will give language learning students another “hook” for remembering the new words and their meanings. When introducing new words, draw (or show) a simple picture to go with them. Make up an action/gesture to represent the words, too. For practicing, have the child come up with his/her own drawings for the words. They might do this on a flashcard, a personal word wall, or just a white board. Make sure you do the actions for each word when practicing them.
Give clues about the word and see how few it takes for the kids to know which word you picked – you could limit the number of guesses to 5, or 10, etc. Your clues might be, “My word starts with the letter __.” Or, “My word rhymes with __.” You might give clues about the word’s meaning, like “It’s another word that means ___.”
10. ABC Order –Orden del alfabeto
Have students alphabetize their sight words. Give them a short list (maybe just the week’s new words) or let them pick several words to write down. Then, have students rewrite them in alphabetical order.
Lastly, I made this simple page to display my own kids’ words for the week (now that we’re learning at home full time during COVID-19). Stick it in a page protector like I did and put it on the fridge or on the wall, then use a dry erase marker to add the words your kids are learning. If it could help you, too, grab it here.
Many of these word practice strategies are research-based:
Graves, M., Juel, C., & Graves, B. (2007). Vocabulary development. InTeaching reading in the 21st century (4th ed.). Boston: Allyn & Bacon. (word wall games like rapidly reading the words, playing games and doing puzzles, and categorizing words)
Graves, M., Juel, C., & Graves, B. (2007). Word study instruction. InTeaching reading in the 21st century (4th ed.). Boston: Allyn & Bacon. (Word work and word sorting using sight words and word banks)