High Frequency Words

Let's talk high frequency words! or sight words, popcorn words, star words.... or whatever you call them! In my room we refer to them as "Fish Words."

They are important and they are in the Common Core Standards. To quote, in the kindergarten standards it says:

CCSS ELA-LiteracyRF.K.3c Read Common high-frequency words by sight (e.g., the, of, to, you, she, my, is, are, do, does)

Some people will make a distinction between sight words versus high frequency words. So it may anger those people... but I use the terms interchangeably...don't be mad, please!

My school district has a list of 50 high frequency words. The idea if for the students to know 25 by the end of kindergarten and all 50 by the end of first grade.  We work hard so that most of them do leave kindergarten with all 50!

So let's get down to the real question..... what do you do for your students to learn these words? Here is my Top 10... but still not complete....list of fun ways to learn the sight words- unlike David Letterman's Top 10, these are not listed in any particular order:

1. My favorite tool is Heidi Butkus' Sing and Spell CDs... oh my word! The kids just L-O-V-E these songs! There are several volumes of CDs- I think I own about four of them. I have made this book to go with the songs:

2. Another thing I do is each time I introduce a sight word (once a week in the beginning of the year and then twice a week) we vote on a symbol to put around that word. The few first words I always make the decision (a rectangle around "the" and an arrow that can "see" both ways under see) After that, the kids vote. I post them on the wall. This picture if from early in the year:

Here is last year's popcorn version:

I used to buy cut outs to write the words on (like the popcorn pieces at the top for decoration) Now, I just die cut them or trace from one set of the bought version and cut out the others to save on money. I used to try of a way to make this cuter and do it on the computer with one of the fonts I am obsessed with.... but I think it is best keeping it "old school" and just hand writing these.

Sometimes the kids will suggest something like "a unicorn" and I have to guide them to make another choice since they would be too tricky to draw all the time.

When do the kids use these symbols? ALL THE TIME! When they get any paper or make a class book the first thing they do is be a "word detective" and hunt down these words! We have a long talk about not writing in library books, but other than that, anywhere they see a "fish" or "popcorn" word they need to put the correct symbol.

3. I have a center for early finishers where they get to practice the words we have done so far. They love doing this.

Sometimes I run off a bunch just to have ready and then if we add new words before I make a new set then they can just add them to the paper (like how "you" is added to the top one.)

4. We stamp the sight words - on paper or on our hands! (2 or 3 letter words fit a bit better)

5. I will use these "magic tubes" (they are test tubes I order from Steve Spangler Science). I've seen other teachers do this same concept with sand instead of water. Can you "see" the word "see"? Why is there glitter floating in that water? It's a short answer: because glitter is fun!

 I sort the letter beads in a box I got from Michaels. There are 2 letters per section, although I will say that putting "E" and "F" together wasn't the best choice I've made:

6. We play a game where we write the "fish words" on a neighbor's back.  In the beginning of the year I do this same concept with letters and numbers. They know who their carpet partner is and sometimes when the phone rings or another adult comes in the room for whatever reason I just say, "Turn to your carpet partner and write a fish word." Then the other person has to guess the word!

7. Sight Word Search - Well, let me say that getting the highlighters out is a BIG deal in my room. Why is it so exciting... I guess I too like to highlight with multiple colors. This is done with an adult and a group of about 6 students. They each start with one color highlighter. The adult announces the word to search for and they look for that word in each column. They have learned the words "row" and "column" and are good at searching. We all pass the highlighters to the right and get a new word... etc, etc.

8. And then there is this super easy-peasy idea. We have been asked to use less paper- our budget has been cut and so that means less copies! So this little idea is great because it is 1/3 piece of paper per child. And to be honest- you could probably do it just as effectively without photocopying anything at all. I write the fish word/ sight word...whatever you call it.... 5 different ways... some weeks with markers, sometime with colored pencils and usually at least one line of the letter stamps. The students have to just copy the word to look exactly like mine. EASY! and great practice for them!

 Usually my sample (the one to the right) has to be on display, but this little friend takes it down.... problematic if another child wants to use this center... but worked out better for the picture.

9. Another fun game is "Fishing for Sight Words" and it is available at my Teachers Pay Teachers store:

10. Play dough! No pics of this one! But we roll the play dough in spaghetti strings to spell out the words. And I've been eyeing {THESE} at Lakeshore for a while.

What do you do to help your little ones learn sight words?


  1. I just found your blog and I'm so glad I did! It's great!

    Ms. Cranfill's Class

  2. OMG! All your ideas are so great! I am loving the symbols with the sight words! I am your newest follower!

    Kimberly Ann
    Live, Laugh, I LOVE Kindergarten

  3. I love all of these ideas. I wish my district had a smaller target for our Kinders and their sight words. Our end of year goal is 100. We have so many kids that come in with no PreK and so many that filter in and out through the year that at the end of the first quarter, it's hard to expect them to have 25 down when most are still working on letters/sounds. I definitely plan on *borrowing* some of your ideas for next school year. Thanks for sharing!