How to Teach Red Words

There can be a lot of confusion around Red Words -

What on earth are Red Words anyway? Sight words? High-frequency words?

For us, Red Words are phonetically irregular words. They are quite simply words that can't be sounded out. If you sound them out they come out all wrong. "Was" for example is a Red Word. If we sounded this word out based on syllable type (extra points for you if you knew it would be a closed syllable) you would get /w/ /a/ /s/ which would rhyme with gas. Makes sense right? But instead, we get a lazy/schwa vowel in there and get a short /u/ sound. So we just have to memorize these words for both reading and spelling.

This can be really frustrating for our students because we spend a lot of time talking about the strategies for phonetically decoding but even though we can account for most reading and spelling patterns through the study of phonology and morphology there are some words that just don't make sense!!! So we go through a quick and simple process (that takes no more than 3-5 minutes max) to practice these words. 

Here’s how we teach Red Words -

  1. We always start with our red grid and place it underneath our square box.

  2. Have the student practice tracing the red word while saying the LETTER (not the sound).

  3. After all of the letters have been traced we underline the entire word and say the word.

  4. Have the student trace the bumpy word with his or her finger while saying the LETTER and word.

  5. Have the student write the word on the next boxes while saying the LETTER, then underlining and saying the word.

  6. Pick an activity, you can sky write, arm tap, or use glitter paper or another sensory tool to practice spelling the word (or mix it up and try all three).

  7. Fold the paper and see if the student can remember how to spell it (sometimes we set this aside and do it after the word is less fresh).

  8. Have the student use the word in a sentence and check for COPS.

It's a really fun activity and our students LOVE it.

Grab a sample of this awesome resource by clicking here!

For a comprehensive list of Red Words, you can grab this Best Seller at TeachersPayTeachers.