Popcorn Words


What are Popcorn Words???

Popcorn words are words that "POP UP!" frequently in reading and writing.  It is critical that readers and writers develop automatic recognition of popcorn words, a skill that leads to fluency.  Eventually, students will need to be able to read about 300 popcorn words "instantly" without hesitation, because these words make up 65% of all written material.  Comprehension begins to break down when students are focused on trying to decode or sound out words.

        Many popcorn words are called "Sight Words".  Sight words do not follow regular phonetic rules.  They do not follow easy spelling patterns (example: cave, save, wave, gave, have).  As a result, these words are more difficult for students to master.  Asking a child to "sound it out" is pointless with this type of word and generally causes increased frustration for beginning and struggling readers.  Young readers need to recognize these words as "sight words".  In order for students to retain a difficult word, they need many opportunities to experience and manipulate it.  

        A prime example of the importance of popcorn words in a piece of text can be seen in counting the number of popcorn words in a simple version of The Three Bears.

How can I help my child practice
Popcorn Words at home???


Practicing popcorn words can become monotonous and a bit of a challenge with young learners.  Here are some fun ways to help your child at home.  Be sure to vary it up a bit to help keep your child motivated!

Click below for a complete list of First Grade Popcorn Words!

Wonders First Grade Popcorn Words


You can buy a set of plastic magnetic letters at the Dollar Store.  Have your child put the letters on a metal cookie sheet or the refrigerator to make the word, then read it.  Later, encourage  him/her to make the word, read the word, cover the word, write the word,  check the word, read the word. (Children may peek at the word if necessary while they are learning to write it correctly.)

Write the word over and over until it is learned, erasing each time.  This is a writing task, not a copying task.  If your child is using paper and pencil, fold the paper over each time or use another paper or card to cover the previous word.  If your child needs a model to start with, provide it.  Then cover it and allow him/her to peek if necessary.  Then remove it altogether.  Encourage your child to make sure the words are in his/her head.

Make cards with several pairs of popcorn words.  Scramble the cards and lay them faced down in neat rows.  Turn over 2 cards at a time, read the words, and see if you have a match!  Continue until all matches have been read and collected! 

As you go through the stack of cards, ask your child to read in the following voices:  baby, robot (monotone), goofy, scary, mad, old.

Have your child go through a poem, worksheet, decodable book, page of a magazine, or newspaper clipping and highlight the popcorn words.

Provide your child with a safe surface (preferably outdoors), with which to use shaving cream.  Spray a good amount of shaving cream onto the surface, and have your child smooth it out.  Your child can use his/her finger to spell out popcorn words in the shaving cream.   Between each new word, smooth out the shaving cream and practice again and again!

Any games with cards to read or letters to manipulate:
Scrabble          Go Fish                Bingo                    Boggle
Lotto                Word Search       Hang Man