Wonder Words

Wonder Words is a collection of 23 leveled books that help motivate early readers, including English Language Learners (ELL), to learn their first 100 sight words in a meaningful context through stories.

When children start to read, they follow the text from left to right across the page. They begin to learn letter sounds and how to phonetically decode. Illustrations are crucial in providing clues to help children to decode and recognize words and develop their vocabulary. Visual clues also help children to predict meaning and are paramount in the early stages of reading. However, there are a number of essential words that cannot be shown in illustrations and cannot be decoded phonetically, such as: here, was, the, and our. Children most often learn these words by sight.

Many names are given to the list of 100 words that are necessary for vocabulary acquisition, these include Dolsch, high-frequency words, sight words, and in this case, the Wonder Words. These words are often introduced to children with flashcards or photocopied lists. List words taught in isolation do not provide a clue to meaning. The aim of Wonder Words is to place these words into a meaningful context (real stories) to which readers can relate.

In the Level 1 and 2 stories, the words are introduced both individually and through common phrases that are repeated throughout the texts. Placing the Wonder Words and related phrases into a real context reinforces the first 100 sight words and helps to cement them in the child’s memory.

All 23 stories use repetition and rhythm to reinforce the focus Wonder Words. The words, common phrases, and stories can be introduced and taught in class. The books (along with phrases and the word lists) can then be taken home to be read with parents and caregivers, encouraging constant reinforcement.

Wonder Words include:

  • 23 colorful and engaging stories. Each story introduces three to six Wonder Words in a real context. We recommend introducing children to the stories in order, starting with Book 1 through Book 23. This means they are introduced to the Wonder Words gradually. The Wonder Words children read in early stories are reinforced and further consolidated in later stories.
  • A Teacher’s Resource, which has teaching notes and activity blackline masters (BLMs) for each of the stories; a phrase, word list, and word card blackline masters; an information sheet for parents and caregivers; a Wonder Words individual checklist; and two Wonder Words overviews.

How to Use Wonder Words in Your Classroom

1. Getting started

Introduce the topic of the story, for example ‘pets,’ with questions and activities. 

2. Story walk

Introduce the story. Give each child a copy of the book. Read the title. Discuss the characters in the story. Flip through each page and promote discussion about the events and pictures. Ask: What do you think might be happening? Use vocabulary that is in the text. Discuss the words featured in blue throughout the text (these are the focus Wonder Words). Ask students if they have seen these words before (on the classroom Word Wall that has been made by copying the word cards from and displaying them on a ‘wall’ as they are introduced). Some children may recognize these words if they have been introduced individually before the reading.

3. Reading the text

Read the book with students while they follow along in their own book, pointing to each word with their finger. This may be a little slow at first, but it encourages an understanding that sentences are made up of words. Have the children read the text more than once, especially if they are enjoying the story and are experiencing success.

NOTE: Make sure the focus Wonder Words are displayed on a classroom Word Wall while the children read the story. Add to the Word Wall as the children work through the 23 stories.

4. After reading

Ask the children questions about the text (see inside the front cover of each book and the accompanying teaching notes for sample questions). Formally introduce the Wonder Words from List 1/Book 1 individually, that is ‘Here,’ ‘is,’ and ‘my,’ and as a phrase: ‘Here is my _____.’

Focus on the words from the list (see the inside back cover of the book). Talk about their shape, the letter they begin with, and so on. Ask students if they can hear, for example, the ‘h’ sound in ‘here’ and the ‘m’ sound in ‘my’. Draw a shape box around each word.

Talk about letters with heads, bodies, and tails. Talk about the number of letters in each word; for example, ask: Which word has the most letters and which words have only two letters? Look at each word separately, for example, ‘Here’. Discuss that this word starts with a capital letter because it is at the start of the ‘writing’. Say: It has a tall letter at the start, followed by three smaller letters. Point out that ‘here’ is the same word, even though it begins with a lowercase letter. Trace over each letter with a finger (either on the inside back cover of the book or on the whiteboard). Look at another word, for example, ‘is’. Say: This is a word that you can sound out. It is made up of only two letters. Trace over the word. Look at the word ‘my’. Say: This word has only two letters, too. Do you know any other words that rhyme with ‘my’? [by, cry, shy, fly, try]. Trace over the word to highlight its shape and show that it has a ‘tail’.

Follow this with reading activities (including blackline masters) for the remainder of the week, to reinforce the Wonder Words and phrases introduced. These activities are featured in the teaching notes for each title. Have the children add to their Wonder Words phrase booklet and Wonder Words word booklet (see pp. 97–108) as they complete each Wonder Words text. Further reinforce reading activities by accessing the E-Books for each Wonder Words title at mycapstonelibrary.com.

NOTE: Phrases are introduced formally only at Levels 1 and 2.

5. Assessment

Use the Wonder Words phrase booklet and Wonder Words word booklet to check the children’s recognition of the Wonder Words. When you are confident that they can read their List 1/Book 1 words, for example, they can move on to List 2/Book 2 words and the accompanying story. Children could be given a reward sticker when they are able to read their words successfully from their Wonder Words word booklet. You can keep an ongoing assessment record of the children’s ability to read the Wonder Words by using BLMs 103 and 104 Wonder Words individual checklist. You can also record the individual titles read by each child by completing BLM 105 Wonder Words overview—books.

parents info sheet

6. Home involvement

Involve parents and caregivers in using the Wonder Words at home by giving them a copy of the information sheet and the Wonder Words checklist . Encourage them to listen to their children read at home from the Wonder Words books and their Wonder Words phrase booklet and Wonder Words word booklet.