Focus: Power Words
What is 1 Green?
1 Green readers can read 25–75 Power Words at flash speed.
At this level your child will know 25-75 Power Words (e.g., the, are, who, is); these high-frequency words are also known as “sight words.” Your child will be able to recognize these words anywhere and read them automatically, at flash speed, without sounding out or working at them. Because many Power Words defy basic phonics rules, they cannot be sounded out and must simply be memorized by sight. The first 60 Power Words found on the 1 Green Skills Card make up more than one-third of the words used in English text. Once mastered, these words provide “islands of certainty” from which the emergent reader can navigate the unknown. Congratulations, it’s official: Your child is reading words!
I can make the first letter sound for all consonants.
I know and can read 60+ Power Words at flash speed.
What Makes 1 Green Books Unique?
1 Green books use simple sentences, clear pictures, and the 1 Green Power Words. Any other words that appear in the books can be “guessed” by using the first letter sound and the pictures (the Power Goal for 3Y). Because many of the Power Words appeared in the Yellow books (in the repeating sentence stems), children will already have had some exposure to them.
Try reading this sample 1G book
Read the title of the book and the name(s) of the author/illustrator to your child and then ask them to try to finish the book.
Remember that the “training wheels” from the Yellow books have been removed—there is no longer a repeating sentence stem on each page to support your reader. Your child is now working hard to remember and read Power Words. If your child gets stuck on a word, ask him, “What word would make sense there?” If he is still stuck, just tell him the word and keep going.
Children typically need to see and say a new word 40 times before they know it, so this level will take some patience and repeated practice.
Your reader may begin to self-correct or go back and reread something that doesn’t make sense. This is a big milestone in developing your child’s problem-solving skills. There are four important “Word Attack Strategies” your child can use to figure out “tricky words” they don’t know.
1 ) Stop if something doesn’t look right,
sound right, or make sense.
2 ) Look at the picture.
3 ) Say the first letter sound.
4 ) Reread by going back and trying again.
Ask your child questions about what they’ve read to keep the focus on thinking and learning, not just on whether they got all the words right. Below are some sample questions to ask. If your reader doesn’t know the answers, help him go back in the book to help find the answers together.
About the plot: “Can you tell me what happened in this book?”
About specific topics: “Can you tell me something that animal likes to eat?”
About his opinion: “What was your favorite part of the book?” or “How do you think the dog felt when the cat ate his food?”
Don’t discourage your child from continuing to point to each word as he says it. Tracking is extremely helpful in managing the many complex skills your child is trying to master all at once. He’ll outgrow it naturally when he is ready.
After repeated practice with using the first consonant sound, your child will also begin to learn and master the sounds of consonant blends and digraphs. This is a Power Goal for 2 Green, but something you can begin to point out to your child as he gains confidence as a 1 Green reader.
Consonant blends are two (or three) consonants together, in which each consonant can be heard in the single blended sound. The blends your child will first learn are:
br–, cr–, dr–, fr–, gr–, pr–, tr–, wr–
bl–, cl–, fl–, gl–, pl–, sl–,
sc–, sk–, sm–, sn–, sp–, st–, sw–, tw–
Digraphs are two consonants which when combined make a distinct single sound that does not correspond to the sounds the letters make. The four most common digraphs your child will learn first are:
sh–, ch–, th–, wh–
What Mistakes Should I Correct?
Make sure your child says one word for each word on the page.
Make sure the words your child supplies start with the right first letter and make sense.
When your child is stuck on a new Power Word that is hard to guess based on the meaning of the sentence, just tell him the word.
When to Move to the Next Level
It’s natural to want your child to advance quickly. But it’s very important that before moving to 2 Green, your child has mastered the first 60 Power Words at FLASH speed. This means no pauses, no first letter clues, and no uncertainty. It means he can read the 1 Green books quickly, with great fluency and comprehension. Only then is it time to move to 2 Green.
Watch these videos to see what successful reading practices look like and how to coach a child when they get stuck or make mistakes.
what if my child is struggling
Since learning Power Words is really about memorization, it will take time, patience, and repeated practice. If your child is having trouble learning the Power Words just by reading and re-reading them, you can help your child’s brain “learn to learn” these words in four ways:
Using another sensory system (touch and/or gross motor)
Using adrenaline to program the connection
Using emotion to encode long-term memory
Developing a memorable or funny association for the word
Different methods will work better for some children than for others, so try experimenting with the activities below to see what works best for your child. To monitor progress, maintain a written record of all the Power Words he can read without help (and which ones he still needs to learn). Openly share the record with your child so he knows what he still needs to learn and can “own” his own progress. Children like to know where they are in the learning process and it gives them a real sense of accomplishment as they master more words.
Flash Cards. Use our laminated Power Word cards on a ring, or make your own flash cards and keep them in a ziplock bag.
Speed Games. Adrenaline actually helps to encode words into memory, so play hard and play fast. If your child isn’t up on his feet, try to say the words as fast as he can—adrenaline isn’t kicking in yet. Make it a race to see how fast he can say all the words, using the flash cards or the 1 Green Skills Card.
Concentration. Make 2 cards for each word and lay all the words out facedown in a grid. Take turns turning over 2 cards. If the words match, and your child can read the word, he gets the match.
Go Fish. Make 2 cards for each word and play the traditional card game Go Fish, taking turns asking for and then drawing cards until a player gets a Power Word match. We recommend playing with just 10 words at a time.
Sandwiching. Because Power Words are low-meaning, they aren’t that interesting to learn, so it can help to “sandwich” them with words that your child loves and cares about. Make up some flash cards for high-meaning, special words (e.g., the dog’s name, sibling’s name, best friend, cartoon character, etc.), and “sandwich” in the Power Words to form short sentences.
Kinesthetic Encoding. It’s time to get active. Write the words on a large piece of paper, some poster board, an easel, or a blackboard. Ask your child to stand up and pretend to trace the letters in the air using his arm in big, sweeping motions as he slowly says the word (not the letters). Turn on some good tunes and have fun with the big motions.
Auditory/Visual/Tactile Encoding. Get out the crayons and markers and practice writing the words. As your child writes the word, have him also say the word slowly (stretched out). You want him to say the whole word, not the letters, to help encode the entire word into long-term memory.
As always, make sure to recognize your child’s effort and not just his achievement. Tell your child how proud you are that he is learning so many words, and celebrate as he masters each new word. If your child seems disinterested or bored, it’s time to spice things up to make reading time more F-U-N. Set up the play tent; get out the flashlight; pretend you are reading to an imaginary monster or fairy princess. Pick the time of day when your child is most alert, and always serve a yummy snack.
Last but not least, be sure to revisit the Yellow level books. Your child will enjoy the “easy” reading, and he can gain excellent practice with Power Words in these books as well.
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