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1st Grade - 2nd Grade: Developing Readers Suggestions


If your child needs help blending/reading letters to make a word

  1. Start by having your child sound out the word by connecting all of the sounds together. This is called continuous blending. Students should not pause in between the sounds. This technique will help them link the sounds together. After they have completed sounding out the word, have them reread it.

  2. Once they have mastered the continuous blending, have them start to sub-vocalize the sounds. They should utter the sounds with their lips silently or with barely audible sound. Once they have done this, have them reread it.

  3. Once they have mastered the sub-vocalizing step, you can move to point to the spelling focused step. Point to the vowel letter in the sound (a,e,i,o,u) because this is usually the trickiest part of the word. Have your child say the vowel sound out loud as you tap under the vowel. Then have them read the entire word. If your child still needs to sound out the word, move back to the previous step.

  4. The final practice step is to have your child sound out the entire word in their head without sub-vocalizing. They should be able to do this and then say the word in 3 seconds or less. Eventually with lots of practice, your child will be able to look at the word and read it with automaticity.

What should I do If my child is stuck on a word?
  • If your child gets stuck on a word, ask him/her to use the blending routines above. If they are still stuck and cannot read the word within 3 seconds, read the word for them. This will help to minimize frustration. If your child does not know many of the words in a story, read the story to your child and focus on a few words for them to sound out and practice.


What Happened to Sight Words?

Did you know that memorizing high frequency words, also known as sight words, is not the most effective way to teach high frequency words? Many of these words are actually decodable, which means that students can use phonics to read (sound out) these words. For example, the word "did" is fully decodable, which means a young reader would be able to “sound it out.” No memorization needed here! However, there are still some words that are irregular, or not fully decodable. These are known as “heart words.” With the heart words method, we teach students to use phonics to read the parts of the word that are decodable and only memorize the irregular part(s) of the word – the “heart” part! RVSD follows the Heart Word Method to teach irregular words.

High Frequency words are either:

Fully Decodable - Students can use phonics to read (sound out) these words!
examples: did, yes, this

Temporary Heart Words - These words are decodable, but students have not yet learned the phonics skill(s) needed to decode the word.
example: like. The word like is fully decodable, but only after a student has learned CVCe (long vowel, silent e). This will be considered a heart word with the silent e being the “heart part” until the skill is learned. Then, the word will be decodable.

Irregular/Heart Words - These words have an irregular part(s) and will always be a heart word.

How Can We Practice Hight Frequency Heart Words at Home?

Help your child learn to read and write high frequency words by connecting sound to spelling when they are trying to learn a new word OR come across a word they don’t know in a text.

  1. Listen to the number of sounds in the word. Draw one box for each sound. 

  2. Use phonics to represent each known sound with the corresponding letter(s)

  3. Explicitly teach, fill in and “heart” the part that is not decodable OR hasn’t been taught. So with the word said, students only need to memorize the heart part: “ai” says /e/ in this word.

The Top 13 High Frequency Words

The following 13 words make up 25% of all words in text!

the  heart word
of  heart word
and decodable
a  heart word
to heart word
in decodable
is decodable
you decodable
that decodable
it decodable
he decodable
for decodable
was heart word



Usually around the second half of 1st grade or in 2nd grade, your child becomes a proficient reader. At this stage, they will benefit from individual reading practice AND having adults read aloud.

If you would like to practice comprehension skills at home:

  • Read short stories or chapter books aloud to your child. As you are reading, stop and ask questions about what is happening in the story. Some examples are listed below.

  • Talk about the Setting - For example, Little House in the Big Woods is set near Pepin, Wisconsin.

  • Vocabulary- Stop to discuss new words. Try to give a child friendly definition. Think of other examples and non-examples of the word.

  • Character Traits - Describe the character. Does this character remind you of anyone?

  • Retell - Can your child retell the story? How does the story begin? Who are the characters? What was the problem? How was it solved? How did the story end? If your child is struggling to retell the story, stop more often and have him/her retell the story in smaller chunks.

  • Read-aloud books at this age are important to push your child with vocabulary and concepts. Building background knowledge across content areas will help your child through their school career and beyond.