Sunday, December 7, 2008

Using word frequency to teach writing to kids

The other day when I was looking at the word frequency lists that I mentioned in this post, my 4-year-old daughter came up to me and wanted to write, so she started writing down random words that were on my computer screen. When I looked at her paper, she had written "Genius Love Jazz Swing", which were from the children's music album Genius + Love: Jazz & Swing for Kids, one among the many that we have around here.

Having the word frequency list up in front of me and an eager student beside me, I put two and two together and wrote down a bunch of words for her to practice writing that were high in frequency rather than what just happened to be on my screen. A quick glance at one of the lists showed me that pronouns, the verb "to be", and possessives make up a lot at the top of the list, so I wrote "I am, you are, he is," etc., and "my cat, your cat, his cat," etc., and she gleefully ("glee" being a word she recently learned from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer) practiced writing out the words I wrote for her.

And how quickly kids get that stuff down. Reading some books with her today, I pointed out words that she had practiced writing that day and, before reading them, I asked her what they were. While she wasn't running 100% by any means, she certainly still recalled a bunch of them. One thing I noticed was that she seemed to be able to better recall items near the top of the lists I wrote out for her. Although those words seem to be a bit more common, I'm curious as to whether there's something to being able to better recall items at the beginning of something that you studied compared to those closer to the end.

Related: Word lists based on frequency of use

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