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High Frequency Words

I got all excited this afternoon and was giving myself a big pat on the back for stressing high-frequency words so much with my students. Our text states,

"Of the approximately 600,00+ words in English... only 13 words account for over 25% of the words in print and 100 words account for approximately 50%."
(Beers 212)

And I thought, I know this! I teach this! I have great sight-word games for my first graders, and my reading coach has told me my kids know them backwards and forwards. But then I took a step back and thought, wait a minute - do ALL my students know them? I spend lots of time in first grade with sight words, but what about my very low, struggling sixth graders? I guess I assumed that because they are sixth graders, they know these "easy" words. But immediately, I was able to identify two or three of my most struggling kids, and you know what? I'll bet they struggle with a lot of them beyond the basic 13 (and, for, he, the, etc...). And these are the same kids that lack almost any kind of fluency. This has never once crossed my mind, even though I'm sure I have heard them struggle to decode the most basic words.


I agree that fluency for middle school ELL kids is frustrating. I had an intermediate 8th grade class yesterday that I started out with 3rd grade picture books that were supplied by the LA curriculum. The words that they read were also the ones that they were studying in spelling. By the end of the second quarter, after doing many read a louds with me reading too, their fluency did improve. The topics that we read about were non-fiction stories about nature. The students never caught on that the books were meant for elementary kids.

I plan on using the same type of unit this fall with another group of lower 8th graders.

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