#2. High Frequency Words

Prioritize working with words your child will see in reading often. Obtain the Fry list of high frequency words. You can locate these for free on the Internet. These 3000 words are simply the most frequent words in all print. By automatically recognizing these words your child will be able to read at an increased level simply because the words show up all of the time--in all printed material--for the rest of his life! Thus, a powerful list to know! 


Make word cards for each of the Fry words. The word is on the front, the sign, or picture and contextual sentence is on the back. Have your child think up a relevant sentence.

As with the word family cards make sure to continually review all of the words you have done. Continue to put words in sentences, paragraphs, etc. One way to encourage writing is to keep a daily journal with your child. All of the family members can contribute. This promotes an excellent support for writing but also provides a way for  you to insert the words you have been working on in a consistent manner.


It is important to periodically evaluate your child’s progress in this area. Many times while you are reading with your child a comment such as “oh that’s a Fry word” will be made.  This provides evidence that the words are being retained. However, to ensure that they are stored in long-term memory you need to occasionally test their instantaneous knowledge of these words. Keep a running list of the words for which your child is accountable. To test him, show the word to your child on the card for 1-2 seconds and then remove. The objective is to have your child immediately respond with the correct answer. Place a check by words that need more support. When time permits ask him to give you an original sentence using the word to assess his level of word knowledge.

In this article, we have looked at two ways to maximize your child’s time spent learning print vocabulary. Though it may seem overwhelming at times, the benefit you will observe will be worth the investment. Finally, these activities also provide a wonderful opportunity for you as a parent to improve your own ASL vocabulary skills. Encourage your child to keep a list and periodically assess your ability to instantly produce the correct sign for an English word. This promotes a healthy respect for the endeavor it takes to become bilingual and draws your child closer as you commit to broaden both languages.

 Two Vocabulary Development Activities to do at Home

#1. Visual Letter Chunks 

For early readers, categorizing words by using similar combinations of letters links to a visual cueing system. This is similar to hearing children learning to rhyme at an early age. Once a week you can pick a “word family” (e.g. “AN”) and decide on a list of related words you want your child to know (e.g. and, can, Dan, fan, man, ran, tan, ant, etc.).  Do not be concerned that some words start with the word family (i.e. and) and others end with it (i.e. ran). Your child is looking at the visual chunk and not attending to the sound. A simple Internet search will provide you with the 37 most common word families and related items.

Using index cards, write each word on one card. Keep the letter chunk one consistent color (e.g AN is blue)    

 and the other letter is another color. This helps repeat the  pattern of letter combinations and reduces

memory load  when children write the word on their own.


On the back of the index card paste the sign or picture and add a simple sentence with the word in context.  

This will serve as a memory aid.

Keep the words on a ring and practice often with your child in short increments of time (e.g. before reading a    

bedtime story, in the morning at breakfast, while waiting for the bus, etc.). Have your child put the word in

their on sentence.

Each week as you add a new word family and more words make sure that you continue to review all words

previously learned.

Increase your Child’s Literacy Vocabulary: Activities To

Instantly Recognize Words

Kristin A. Di Perri, Ed.D.

(Published in “The Endeavor”, American Society for Deaf Children Winter 2011)

Riding a bike entails integrating a variety of actions simultaneously. For example, the rider must be able to steer, balance, pedal, alternate speeds, and stop to be successful. Reading requires a similar process. A reader who truly comprehends print must be able to do several things concurrently. One component essential for reading fluency is a substantial bank of immediately recognizable words stored in long-term memory. This is especially true if the child has minimal access to usable English phonetic information.

Parents often ask, “What can I do at home to help my child instantly recognize more English words in print?” This is a very important question because vocabulary size has significant implications for many deaf and hard of hearing readers. In this article, two basic activities will be discussed that any parent can do to increase their child’s initial understanding of a greater number of English words in print.

For signing deaf children, the development of a vast vocabulary can be a daunting challenge. Phonemic awareness, or linking sounds to alphabet letters, is a very potent tool hearing children spend years learning to use. By the time hearing children reach the sixth grade level text book makers expect them to be able to recognize (or decode) about 16,000 words. However, deaf children often have limited biological access to the sound stream and thus have a difficult time mastering this sound connection. Thus, it is critical that parents learn to supplement vocabulary development at home. 

Learning vocabulary visually is not simply a matter of seeing/signing/fingerspelling a word a certain number of times. In order to internalize the new word the child must see it in context many times. During the learning of the word stage, sentences that are heavily contextualized support the reader in internalizing the meaning of the target word. For example: Target word: TOO-- I ate too much and now I feel full. Research suggests that it can take anywhere from 20-75 encounters with a single word in context before it is stored in long-term memory. Therefore, while the following activities suggest ways to increase the number of new words your child can learn, it is imperative to understand that you also need to, when possible, put the words into personal sentences, paragraphs and stories. In this way you continue to aid the process of adding the word to long-term memory as well as providing supplementary reading experiences. 

There are several ways parents can help their children practice, learn and internalize greater quantities of words.  The key is to find activities that take advantage of visual or frequency attributes that support learning a significant number of words more efficiently. Finally, learning singular words does not provide enough depth to their meanings. However, having an initial concept about a word allows readers to handle the more sophisticated aspects of comprehension.