High Frequency

Q. How do we make sure that our students will hear the “important” words (some call them “high frequency”) if we go non-targeted?

A. If we are teaching for whole-language mastery, then we need to unlearn or let go of the idea that we are teaching parts of the language. If the high-frequency words are important they will come up again and again, and if they are not, then they won’t. This means, to me, that we need not stress ourselves out and bog our instruction down in the quest to pile reps upon reps in one sitting. Just use the language, and day after day, the “important” elements of the language will reappear again and again, and be acquired when the learner is ready. This last point is, to me, frequently overlooked in targeted instruction. We can hammer a certain linguistic element forever, but if the student is not ready to acquire it, then all our efforts are in vain and we are just putting a lot of energy on something that really does not matter, and not only that, also inhibits our ability to connect with kids and find the humor, joy, and creativity that non-targeted work promises.

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1 thought on “High Frequency”

  1. “…and be acquired when the learner is ready.” We can never be sure when students are ready. Individuals may pick up on it while others may later. And some will pick up what others do not. Has anyone had that moment where the slow processor responds to “what does this mean?” with a word that NO ONE else know? It happens and it’s awesome because each student is unique. I am using that question less and less.

    …”then all our efforts are in vain and we are just putting a lot of energy on something that really does not matter…” Then teachers put on their traditional teacher hats and get pissed off when most of their kids cannot write “he/she went to ____” in a freewrite and did not master the preterite or passé composé of this word that you circled so many times. Then the kids feel like crap because they smell and HEAR the rat that is being presented to them with the hammering. It’s lame.

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