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High-Frequency Word Book Strategies Bank

High-frequency words are the 100 or so most commonly used words in printed language. Though the English language contains millions of words, over 50 percent of all text is composed of these 100 words. These words often present a special difficulty to early readers. Many are phonetically irregular (there, not "theer;" could, not "cold"), and they tend to be abstract and have no visual correspondence, or even easily understood definitions. Yet these words are essential to reading. If students are to read quickly and fluently, they must have these high-frequency words memorized to sight; otherwise, decoding will take up much time and effort, frustrating the reader and blocking easy comprehension.

Recognizing high-frequency words by sight primarily involves memorization, and memorization comes most easily through repetition. Students need to read and write high-frequency words as often as possible. Reading A-Z's high-frequency word books will assist in word memorization since students can keep their own copies of the books to read repeatedly.

The English high-frequency word books have been translated into Spanish and French. Because of the nuances of each language, these translations cannot be literal word-for-word translations. In many instances, the number of high-frequency words in a translated version may be greater than the English version. When using the translated versions to introduce and teach Spanish and French high-frequency words, you may want to introduce and teach 2-3 words in different teaching sessions before giving students the books to read.

Follow these tips for successful high-frequency word instruction:

  • Make sure students read text containing high-frequency words every day. Almost all text contains these words, but the most rewarding reading will come from books students can read easily. Reading A-Z's high-frequency word books, decodables, or leveled books with patterned text will provide students with exposure to these words. Since students can keep and use their own copies of the books, they can circle or underline the high-frequency words as they encounter them in the text.
  • Create a word wall of high-frequency words. Add new words to the wall as they are introduced. Each day, students can chant or cheer the high-frequency words posted on the wall.
  • Introduce words in small groups of six to eight words or fewer per week. It may be beneficial to present words in phonetic groups (this, that, they, the, those, there; big, but, by, best, both, etc.).
  • Allow students to write the words as often as possible. They may practice individual words or write high-frequency word sentences such as "I like to _____," or "We go by the _____."
  • Keep a checklist of high-frequency words. When a student has memorized a word, meaning he or she can read it without decoding or write it without seeing the word, check the word off and move on to the next word.
  • Use everyday text, including textbooks, storybooks, poetry, articles, worksheets, and posters, to identify high-frequency words. Keep highlighters handy to practice while doing other lessons.

These activities can make learning high-frequency words engaging and fun.


Word Books

Each student can keep a word book at his or her desk. Folded and stapled construction or white paper, pencils, and crayons are all that is required. Students can write their names on the covers and decorate their books. As students encounter high-frequency words, they will add them to their books. They may use the books as a reference when reading new texts.

Word Detective

Invite students to be high-frequency word detectives. They can locate assigned words in the classroom or school environment and in print materials they encounter in their daily lives.

Timed Reading

Have students pair up. One reads a high-frequency word book while the other times the reader. Have students perform timed readings every day for one week, and you will see their reading rate and fluency improve.

Make and Break

Use plastic letters to make and break high-frequency words. Distribute the appropriate letters to all students in the group. Write the high-frequency word on the board and have students use it as a model to make the word with their plastic letters. Have students read the word. Then, erase the word from the board. Have students scramble their plastic letters and try to build the word again. Speak the word as they do so, separating it into phonemes if necessary. Have students read the word they have made to check that it is correct.

Word Games

Almost any simple game can be slightly modified to accommodate high-frequency word instruction. Bingo is a consistent favorite. Bingo cards can be downloaded from a link on the high-frequency word book pages (one set of 24 bingo cards for each set of books). While playing bingo, as you call out each word, monitor students to ensure that they recognize the high-frequency words and place chips on them when appropriate. Other simple games that can help teach words include common favorites like hangman.

Flashcard Activities

Create flashcards for the high-frequency words in your lesson. It may be helpful to create your word wall from these versatile, movable cards. Flashcards can accommodate any number of fun activities:

  • Louder and Louder: Have students begin reading the words on the word wall in a whisper. As they go along, have them gradually increase the volume until they are shouting by the last word.
  • "Jeopardy": Lay several high-frequency word cards face up on the floor. Have students sit in a circle around the cards. One student mentally chooses a word and gives a clue about it: "This word begins with a b." The student can continue to give clues ("It rhymes with tall.") until another student is the first to touch the correct card. He or she gets to give the next set of clues.
  • Memory: Create two of each high-frequency word card. Lay the cards face down on the floor. Students take turns trying to match identical words. The student with the most pairs wins.
  • Funny Voices: Flash the cards to students, and have each student read a word in a robot voice, an old voice, a squeaky voice, and a monster voice.
  • Swat!: Divide students into two teams, each standing on one side of the word wall. Give the first student in each team a flyswatter. Read a word from the word wall. The first team to swat the word gets a point. The swatter then passes the flyswatter to the next team member.
  • Making Sentences: Hand out one flashcard to each student. (You'll probably need to make several copies of the flashcards to have enough for the entire class.) Some students will get word flashcards and some will get picture flashcards. Encourage them to have fun as they play with standing next to each other in various combinations and arrangements in order to make sentences. Or come up with your own games using "human sentences."


Use your imagination to create simple, fun activities that will give students daily exposure to high-frequency words.