Thursday, June 20, 2013


Tutors who are helping their learners read and write better may already be aware that 100 words occur so frequently in English that they make up half of the words you will see on any given page. According to The Reading Teachers Book of Lists by Edward Bernard Fry, Ph.D, Jacqueline E. Kress, Ed.D & Dona Lee Fountoukidis, Ed.D., about sixty-five percent of all written material in English comes from the list of the 300 most common words. Memorizing them gives a leg up to people struggling to read the language. While we usually recommend phonics for reading instruction at Literacy Network, there are good reasons to take this approach for the 300 (you can find the list by clicking here). 

Why memorize a finite list of words? First, there's the speed boost it gives readers. Second, many of the words are read non-phonetically. If you read words number 24, 25 and 27 from the list, have, from and one, they would rhyme with grave, mom, bone. Instead, they rhyme with lav, bum, bun. So, since memorization is the best way to learn them, how do we go about it? Here are three strategies:

1.    Flashcards-Cut index cards in half and tech them three or four at a time. Get your learner involved by inviting him or her to write the words on cards during a lesson
2.    Tapping out-have your learner spell the word orally while tapping out each letter on her arm, moving down her arm with each tap. So, for the word have she would tap and recite "H - A - V - E," then say "Have" as she makes a wiping motion, as though erasing the word off her arm.
3.    Oral Rhyme, Three at a Time-the strategy I employed above, actually. Write and recite: "Have, from, one rhyme with lav, bum, bun the phonetically consistent spelled words they rhyme with. This strategy might work well with learners who learn well orally.

Remember: learning to read takes patience, time, repetition, patience and more repetition. Thank you all for being tutors.

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