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Heart Words

This blog is loaded with ideas for practicing heart words! Many of the activities I will share here are interactive and hands-on for students, which we ALL love. The following are also routines that you can use all year long. So let’s get to it! 😍

What are Heart Words?

You’re not alone if you need clarification about the difference between sight, high-frequency, and heart words. These lists often need to be clarified because so many of the words on them overlap with one another. In my Early Literacy grad class, I teach what each of these means:

  • Sight Words:
    • These are words that are recognized immediately.
    • They can be ANY word! For kids, their name is a sight word.
    • These overlap with high-frequency words and heart words.
    • Examples: Emily, mom, I, love, stop.


  • High-Frequency Words:
    • Most common words from print.
    • High-utility words.
    • Learning high-frequency words builds fluency.
    • Examples: the, and, a, to, you, it, is, be.


  • Heart Words:
    • High-frequency words with one or more parts that cannot be decoded.
    • Examples: of, the, was, they, what, from, love.


I hope this helps to identify the differences between these three types of words. You can check here if you’re looking for ideas to build fluency with sight words!

Teaching Heart Words

Reading research shows us that there are better ways to learn heart words than memorization alone.

I love to use the process of word mapping, also known as “phoneme-grapheme mapping.” It involves students listening to a word and then matching the sound to the letters!

This process helps students turn unfamiliar words into words they can quickly and automatically recall. Word mapping also allows students to strengthen their reading and writing skills.

How to Map Heart Words

How do you map heart words with your students? It’s like mapping decodable words, but there’s one extra vital step!

First, students say a word. Next, they segment or stretch the word into individual sounds. After that, students use one box to represent each sound. 

Students then write the letters to match each sound. With heart words, one or more boxes do not look as you would expect. For example, the word “from” looks like we would map it with “f-r-u-m.”

Call attention to this tricky part by drawing a heart on top of that box. This unexpected spelling pattern is the part that we need to “learn by heart.”

Finally, as the last step, students read the entire word.

Heart Word Routine

To help students learn and understand heart words, I love using this routine in my classroom. It’s a fun poem that engages students in mapping heart words. You can model this for students on the board or let students use their own paper to map alongside you.

I like to use this poem as a part of my morning meetings, phonics lessons, shared reading, word study, or during transitions.

The routine is fun and engaging, and students absolutely love it. 

  • Hear It: listen to the word.
  • Cheer It: say it enthusiastically!
  • Stretch It: segment the word with individual sounds.
  • Catch It: blend the sounds back and say the word.
  • Tap It: tap one box for each sound.
  • Map It: write the letters to match each sound. Draw attention to the part that doesn’t look how we expect it to look. Add a heart to that box.
  • Zap It: slide your finger under the word and read it aloud.


Download the FREE Heart Word Routine at the end of this post! ⤵️

Sight Word Routine

My students loved this poem so much that I created 12 themes that span the entire year! Each theme comes with a printable color poem, digital poem, colorful student pages, and black and white student pages.   Click the button below to check them out.

Ready to Teach Heart Words?


Get your FREE Heart Word Poem & Mapping Pages! ❤

Now that you’re clear on sight words, high-frequency words, and heart words, let’s get to work.  Download the FREE poem and student pages below! ⤵️

Do you know what I bet your students “heart” the most about you?  That you’re always learning and trying new things!  Kudos to you, teacher friend.  You’re a bright light in this world.  Keep shining!

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Emily Yerty

Emily Yerty

I’m a teacher who believes in creating a classroom kids love and activities that keep them engaged all day!

2 Responses

    1. Thanks so much Laura! Your students are lucky to have a teacher that is excited to try new things!

      Happy Teaching!

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