Shifting The Balance: High Frequency Words

Ya’ll! I am so excited to join my friend Abby from Kindergarten Chaos for our annual summer book study. This summer we’re reading the book, Shifting The Balance.

We have all been hearing about the “science of reading” or “SOR” lately. We’ve all heard about balanced literacy. And probably, we’ve heard about “the reading wars.” Guess what? I don’t believe any of these are the singular magic bullet for teaching reading. I believe in using the best approaches and combining the tools to make teaching the best it can be. Can I learn from all approaches? Absolutely. And that is the purpose of this summer book study! We’re going to learn and grow and add more tools to our toolbox! Also, what you won’t find is Mr. Greg saying you did it wrong or you should never do this or that. I know we see that on social media but I know we’re all doing what is best and we’re all learning and improving and we’re all on this journey together!

We chose this book because “SOR” is the buzzword in education right now and we wanted to dive in and learn how to improve our reading instruction. As we complete our book study this summer, we will be sharing our takeaways, our questions, and changes we’re making in our own instruction!

Shift 4: High-Frequency Words

Overall, for me, this shift is yet another reassurance of what we’ve been doing in our classroom and reassurance of the validity of how we teach sight words/high-frequency words. And yes we’re using both terms because that’s how teachers identify these words. It’s ok to call them these words (or heart words, etc). We also learned some additional strategies to incorporate into our classroom and I’m excited to share those takeaways and use them to improve our sight word instruction.

Here’s my approach to sight words/high-frequency words: when a student is beginning to learn to read, they see a sentence of words. Imagine how overwhelming that must be to see these letters/symbols/words and not know any of them. Now, imagine if you look at the sentence “I can shop at the store with my dad” and knowing 4 or 5 of those words (sight words). You feel more confident and you can use your energy to focus on decoding the unknown words. This is why I want my kids to know sight words. So they have the confidence to focus on decoding unknown words!

Here are my takeaways from Shift 4!

Sight Word 60 Is Sound!

After studying Shift 4, we are confident that Sight Word 60 is sound. We’re adhering to research and best practices. We prioritize words for instruction, we incorporate decoding and writing of sight words and we teach words in context. With some tweaks and additional simple strategies, Sight Word 60 becomes even more effective.

Teach By Sight And Decoding

This is where I believe that we can use both approaches to give our kids the most tools to succeed. We teach sight words/high-frequency words by sight and we teach them to decode the words. Adding in the decoding is something we’ve done for years but last year we became more explicit with this step of Sight Word 60 and we increased the amount of decoding and saw a huge jump in our ability to read and write sight words.

One tool that has been helpful for our Sight Word 60 routine is Secret Stories by Katie Garner. By incorporating Secret Stories into our phonics instruction we give the kids more tools to decode more words. Especially as the school year goes on and we learn more phonics skills, we really begin to focus on decoding the sight words. In fact, we partnered with Katie to do an entire virtual conference on Secret Stories and TKS BOOTCAMP, and Sight Word 60. This is the perfect example of adding tools to the toolbox for our kids and incorporating many approaches and strategies for success!

You can still join our ELEVATE SUMMER virtual conference AND add on the Phonics event to learn about Secret Stories And Sight Word 60! Click the ELEVATE image to register!

To Word Wall Or Not?

Raise your hand if you have a word wall. Yep. We’ve had an interactive word wall for years. The kids use the word wall daily. We teach them to use it as needed. It’s a great tool. However, last year, due to Covid protocols and being virtual for part of the year, we didn’t have a word wall. The biggest difference I noticed was that we relied more on decoding our sight words when reading and writing the words. So, will we have a word wall next year? Doubtful. It’s not a concrete decision yet. Can you have a word wall? Absolutely. Do you have to have one? Nope. Do what works for you and your kids.

Orthographic Mapping

Have you heard about orthographic mapping or seen this latest buzzword floating around social media? Yep. Me too. So after studying shift 4, and reading about orthographic mapping, we’re going to add this into Sight Word 60 as needed but not for every single word. Here’s how we plan to do this:

So when I want to use orthographic mapping for a sight word, we will modify our Sight Word 60 routine SLIGHTLY. Again, Mr. Greg believes in making slight changes and adding in different tools to improve learning. Here’s my plan for using orthographic mapping:

When we want to use this strategoy with a sight words, we will:

close our eyes, say the word, say the sounds in the word. THEN I will show the word and we will discuss the letters that make the sounds. Using our smart board will allow me to draw boxes around the letters for the sounds.

Shift 4 In Our Classroom

Use of Sight Word Readers and Poems-repeated readings give students authentic opportunities to learn new words and expand their knowledge of familiar words which builds fluency and helps with meaning. We do a sight word reader or a poem a week. These help by practicing sight words in context and build fluency. These readers and poems also provide opportunity to work on decoding and comprehension skills.

All of our sight word readers and poems are FREE to download!



Sight Words Across The Day-this is something that always happens naturally for me and my students. My kids get so excited when they see sight words in books, throughout the classroom or building. So we’re constantly practicing sight words across the day and not just during Sight Word 60! I think part of this is because we make sight words fun and exciting and we explain the power of the words so the kids are excited to learn them and use them. This also ties back to shift 3 about making learning engaging and fun!

Small Groups-in our small groups, we do interactive writing with sight words during small groups. We use our whiteboards and markers. We say the word, we say the sounds, and write the word. Another way we could bring orthographic mapping into Sight Word 60 would be using our sight word grids in small groups. We would follow the orthographic mapping routine for a word or words and the students could draw a box around the letter or letters for the sounds!

If you’re looking for an all-inclusive resource for our sight words, make sure to grab our Sight Word 60 creation!

Now I want to hear your thoughts! Leave your thoughts in the comments and make sure to join us on Facebook for our discussions about the book and what we’ve learned!

For more information and ideas, check out these blog posts:

Also, be sure to visit Abby at Kindergarten Chaos for her thoughts on Shift 1!

Blog Categories

Related Posts

Beach Day Ideas For Kindergarten

Who doesn’t love going to the beach? And if you’re like us and live in a landlocked state, you must bring the beach to your

Join Our Newsletter

Subscribe to get our latest content by email.

Powered by ConvertKit