Val Thornberg, at GrowStoryGrow.com, writes about high-frequency words. She says that in French, just 12 words account for 25% of printed text — as one of my kids said, “per capita words.” The main goal of her website is to practice all those little, important words that fall into the top 25 in terms of frequency.
The goal of my lessons is to practice the top 200, by the end of year 2 (and 3, and 4). I was reminded of that goal today, when we were learning a poem for the letter Ш in Russian about a wind-up car that was going (шла) along the road. After the kids gestured and circled that poem, a level 4 kid who hangs out during the first-year class said, “We should sing that song about finding the pie!” Sure enough, that same word “ШЛА” was in the song about 50 times. We sang it. Шла is an irregular verb of motion that means “she was going by foot in one direction.” It’s considered advanced grammar, but Russians use it all the time! My first-year MS kids left the room singing, after they did a little dictation of the poem, and as they left, I ascertained that they all really understood the meaning of the word. “Shelter vocabulary, not grammar,” says Susie.
This high-frequency word stuff is magic! Just this little word will unlock lots of text for them. The fourth-year kid tells me that she learns new stuff all the time in the first-year class. She’s always asking me questions that clarify her grammar understanding.
Like my fourth-year student and her ah-ha moments, I gain a deeper understanding of the same basic TPRStorytelling points every day.