Can I ask a silly (stupid) question?

Discussion in 'General Education' started by Mldouglas, Apr 28, 2010.

  1. Mldouglas

    Mldouglas Comrade

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    Apr 28, 2010

    I wanted to ask a stupid question? I was at a retreat this weekend with a bunch of people who volunteer as literacy tutors in our local schools and I had a tutor ask me a question and I wasn't sure of the correct answer? She had heard the terms "sight words" "high frequency words" and "popcorn words". She wanted to know what the difference was between them. I really drew a blank as to what to tell her. Any ideas what I could have said?

    Thanks,

    Mldouglas
     
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  3. WhatchaDoin?

    WhatchaDoin? Comrade

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    Sight words are words that should be memorized and recognized by sight. They frequently do not follow the rules of phonics.

    High frequency words are words that are seen often in print. Words like: the, of, and, and so on. I'm pretty sure popcorn words are also high frequency words - they keep "popping" up when a student is reading.
     
  4. cutNglue

    cutNglue Magnifico

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    Technically Bubbly is right in the definitions of sight words and high frequency words but they are used interchangably because the high frequency words we tend to recognize are the sight words that don't follow the phonetic patterns.

    Popcorn words refers to using powerpoint slides to show the sight words at 3 second intervals for fluency practice.
     
  5. mmswm

    mmswm Moderator

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    I've never heard of the term popcorn words, but then, I'm not an elementary teacher.

    There is a lot of overlap between high frequency words and sight words, so they're often thought of as one and the same. Bubbly's definition is perfect. Sight words are words that should be recognized by sight, since they usually don't follow the normal rules of phonics. They'd be nearly impossible to sound out, so they're just memorized.

    High Frequency words are just that: words that appear all the time. Many of the high frequency words are also sight words, so they are often thought of as the same thing.
     
  6. cutNglue

    cutNglue Magnifico

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  7. 3Sons

    3Sons Enthusiast

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    I'm rather curious whether this is actually true. This link suggests most of the sight words (150 of 220 Dolch words) actually are phonetic.
     
  8. mmswm

    mmswm Moderator

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    Notice I put in "normal", when I phrased it. Maybe I should have said "elementary" rules of phonics. Most of what we think of as not following the rules, is really just words coming from different origins/languages/ect, and following those rules. TeacherGroupie could probably give a much better, more in-depth expanation (and I'm set up to save all those jewles, again, tg...so start typing).

    To a 5 year old; however, that's just too much too soon. They really don't care that this word follow French phonetics, and that word is a throw back to Middle English. They just need to recognize them so they can read them when they show up.
     
  9. WhatchaDoin?

    WhatchaDoin? Comrade

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    See, soooo NOT a silly question! There are lots of ideas floating around about these terms. I've even learned something new about Popcorn Words, to update my pre-technology-in-the-classroom information!
     
  10. WhatchaDoin?

    WhatchaDoin? Comrade

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    But, didn't E.W. Dolch develop the list by noting frequency, not just by ease of readability? I think Dolch words are a "hybrid" list of sight and high frequency words. I agree with mmswm - there is a lot of overlap.
     
  11. 3Sons

    3Sons Enthusiast

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    I agree that's what people often say, mmswm, but I just don't see it. As just a few examples which seem to be follow pretty much just the very basic letter sounds:

    If we allow elementary phonics to include the normal pronunciations of combinations such as "ch", "th", and "sh", there are a lot more.
     
  12. YoungTeacherGuy

    YoungTeacherGuy Phenom

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    Hmmmm...I've always used the terms (high-frequency words and sight words) interchangeably. Actually, I prefer using the phrase "high frequency words" (versus using "sight words"). That's just me, though.
     
  13. Mrs Ski

    Mrs Ski Companion

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    This was my understanding as well. Now off to look at that popcorn words link.
     
  14. sevenplus

    sevenplus Connoisseur

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    Popcorn words don't necessarily refer to words show in short intervals. I've often heard the term used in the same manner as "high frequency words." I've even seen word walls with the words written on popcorn-shaped cut-outs. They are called popcorn words because they "pop up" a lot in our reading.

    I also use "sight words" interchangeably with "high frequency words" and I agree that many HFWs are phonetic. That's why I spend less time on them and focus on the ones that don't follow basic phonics rules when we practice "sight words."
     
  15. mmswm

    mmswm Moderator

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    3sons, the words you listed are either simply high frequency words, or words that follow more advanced phonetics words. An early elementary student can't be expected to master anything but the elementary rules, with the advanced rules coming later, and the exceptions and foriegn influence words coming after that.

    The dulche words, as I understand them, aren't true sight words. They're high frequency words. Elementary teachers, please correct me if I'm wrong.
     
  16. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Sight words are words (sight is one) that are not phonetically regular and so must be learned as wholes rather than being decoded symbol by symbol.

    High frequency words are, quite simply, words that show up a lot, irrespective of whether they're phonetically regular. I'm not sure what Dolch's source was, but it's probable that he was doing corpus linguistics: taking a text and counting, literally, every word in it. (People used to do this by hand. Now computers do the bulk of the grunt work - though people still generally have to go through and code the words in the text by hand to indicate part of speech and the like.) In any case, one doesn't want readers having to stop and decode every really common word symbol by symbol, so in practice it makes some sense to consider the highest frequency words as sight words.

    It turns out that the very highest-frequency of high-frequency words are not particularly regular phonetically: I'm thinking of words like these:

    the (compare he and she), is, are, was, were, have, of, that, though, they, love, high ​
     
  17. Grover

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    I think mmswm is right, pretty much all words are phonetically regular according to some rule in a descriptive sense. The problem is that English is really weak on prescriptive rules, or to be more precise, lacks prescriptive rules to tell a person which rules apply to a given word.
     
  18. mmswm

    mmswm Moderator

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    I don't dissagree with teachergroupie at all. I think she's saying much the same thing as I am, but in a different way.
     
  19. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Most of the sources I'm aware of in linguistics use the term "prescriptive rule" to refer to rules that specify how the language (to be precise, the prestige version of the language) is SUPPOSED to be used as opposed to the rules about how people actually DO use language, which are descriptive rules; the rule against ending a sentence with a preposition is a prescriptive rule but not a descriptive rule, in that there are plenty of sentences in which a preposition or something that looks like one is the only ending that will, um, work out.

    (I cheated, slightly: out in the phrasal verb work out is a particle, not a preposition. It looks like a preposition, though, and remarkably many people react as though it were.)

    The rules of English spelling are less transparent than, say the rules of Spanish spelling - but there are certainly regularities that can be grasped and taught. A reasonably good rundown of the regularities that is aimed at a middle-school audience is Barron's Painless Spelling. It's rather more accessible, in terms of both price and findability, than D.W. Cummings's 550-page American English Spelling (1988).
     
  20. Grover

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    That's just what I mean, TG- we have lots of rules to describe the actual spelling of English, but good luck spelling 'laugh' if you don't know how already.
     
  21. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    If that's what you mean, I'm sorry to hear it.
     
  22. Grover

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    So, TG, what is the rule that lets a person know that 'laugh' is spelled by a different rule than 'calf' or 'caffiene'?
     
  23. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    The first of these posts presents the claim that all words are phonetically regular according to some rule. The second challenges me to come up with a rule - and bear in mind that a rule simply expresses a regularity - that the same poster is tolerably certain doesn't exist; this contradicts the first claim. That's not very good logic.

    In any case, "all words are phonetically regular" in the sense in which most of us use the phrase is a difficult claim to sustain.

    For one thing, phonetic refers to phones, or individual pronunciations, and alphabets don't encode phones. If alphabets did encode phones, then, since dialectal pronunciations reflect differences in phonetics, speakers of English in Vancouver, WA would be obliged to spell the word about differently than do their counterparts in Vancouver, BC. In fact, alphabets operate on the level of phonemes: phonemic awareness includes awareness that about, however it is pronounced, is not the same word as abet or abut.

    Laugh is an interesting case. The word is Germanic; in German it is spelled lachen, and the <ch> in German writes the sound we hear at the end of the name Bach. A phonetician will describe that sound as a voiceless velar fricative; all that means is that the speaker is blowing air between the bunched-up tongue and the middle back of the roof of the mouth. That sound or something like it was often written in the major dialects of Middle English as <3h> - I'm using the 3 to represent a letter we no longer have that resembled the letter <g>. Over time the dialects spoken in the south of England lost that sound while the northern dialects preserved it; then speakers of the southern dialect, faced with this odd sound that no longer existed for them, interpreted it as the sound that we spell with <f>. (Velar and palatal fricatives have gotten reanalyzed in this way with some frequency: it remains the case that "van Gogh", which in Dutch ends with a velar fricative, is pronounced by the English to rhyme with cough.) In any case, the word laugh is very basic vocabulary and very high-frequency, and very basic high-frequency words tend to keep their odd old spellings even when the pronunciation changes out from under them. And the British, at least, preserve the broad-a pronunciation of the vowel, as they do in aunt.
     

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