Learning High-Frequency Words
The 100 most frequently used words make up about half of the written English language. Here are strategies I use to help students learn to spell these words.
Strategy 1: Chart the WordsTo underscore the idea of high-frequency words, I have students keep a list of the words they encounter most often in their own reading and writing. I later supply them with a chart like our 100 Most Common High-Frequency Words. (Students can keep this chart of high-frequency words in their writing folder or notebook and check off each word as they learn it. In the younger grades, display this list on your word wall at eye level.) I like older students to check early in the year if they know how to spell all high-frequency words. If not, they need to set personal goals to learn them. With younger students, we make learning high-frequency words an early priority, along with trying unknown words.
Strategy 2: Break Bad HabitsIt's very difficult for students to break the habit of a misspelling if they do it for a few weeks. I carefully observe students' writing, and if I see they are consistently misspelling the same high-frequency word, I say, "I notice you are using that word often in your writing, so let's find out and learn the correct spelling."
Strategy 3: Build New WordsI encourage students to scour their high-frequency lists for words with particular spelling patterns, then learn new words based on them (for example, an: pan, than; day: hay, play).
Strategy 4: Use Alternatives to Rote MemorizationTips like these help students master words rather than simply memorizing them.
100 Most Common High-Frequency Words
Diane Snowball is an internationally known educational consultant focusing on language arts. Some of the material for this column was adapted from Ideas for Spelling and Teaching Spelling (Heinemann).