The Key to Making High-Frequency Words Stick

Kaylee learned two words very quickly in the first weeks of kindergarten — two words which she wrote again and again: love and Kaylee

Kaylee, a talented artist, spent much of her choice time making cards and paintings for friends and family, each one signed:


Kaylee learned these words before learning all of the names of the letters they are comprised of. She learned these words because they were important to her. She needed them. She needed to know these words to spread her message.

The number of high frequency words children are expected to know by the end of each year can feel daunting. It may be tempting to schedule a certain number of new words taught each week, or even to make a yearly plan for which words will be taught each week.

However, when predetermined words are taught in isolation, without meaningful connections to learning, and without ample opportunities to practice, kids may not learn the words at all.

Instead, we can pay close attention to the words kids are writing most, the words kids need to know to write each genre, the words kids write again and again when writing about topics and people they hold dear to their heart. By doing so, we can shift the motive of teaching and learning high frequency words from “have to” to “want to,” making them immediately and authentically useful.

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