Skip To Main Content

Pre-K - 1st Grade: Early Readers Suggestions and Tips


If your child needs help identifying letters and letter sounds:

  • Practice only 3 unknown letters/sounds at a time. Have your child say the letter and sound out loud while tracing or writing the letter. Practicing both the letter and sounds together help with memorization. They should do this at least three times when practicing each letter.

If you are looking for ways to practice this skill at home:

  • Cut the letters apart. Can your child identify all the letters and tell their sound? The vowel sounds can be tricky. SES uses universal key words to help students recall the sounds. Our keywords are: a - apple, e - Ed, i= itch, o=octopus, u=up.


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 subvocalize 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 subvocalizing 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.

If you are looking for a way to practice this skill at home:

  • Start by making 3 letter words using the alphabet letters at the end of the packet. Use the alphabet letters to make words, putting the vowel in the middle. The letters y and w need to be at the beginning. Letters g,c and x are better at the end. Mix real words and nonsense words. If your child struggles with this, make a word family. The students love this. For example, make “en” with the cards. Add different first sounds. This creates rhymes. Continue to practice by switching the vowel sounds. Once a word family is complete, switch the end sounds to create a new word family (ex ot, it, at, etc). The goal of this activity is to have the student see the word, blend it in their head and just say the word. This activity can be quick and fun for your child.


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



The best way to build comprehension in Kindergarten is through reading aloud.

If you would like to practice comprehension skills at home:

  • Read a short story or beginning 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, Madeline is set in Paris.

    • 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.