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Beat the Clock – High Frequency Words in Norwegian

After several requests I am finally ready to share how I work with High Frequency Words in my classroom! To day I will share how my students are motivated to read and recognize the first 500 words.

I have used a system that I call “Beat the Clock” in all my grades, from year 1 to year 6. I start by giving each student a printed gum ball machine to glue in their books. If I had only one class of students I would probably hang them on the wall, but I teach about 70 students every day 🙂 You can also laminate them and use them over again next year with new students, but I like the fact that they can take them home at the end of the year.

When we start our center work, I introduce the activity “Beat the Clock” in a teacher led center. Each student recives the first list (set #1 – orange) which contains the first 50 high-frequency words in Norwegian. I also keep a laminated set of each word list at the center. I tell them that these words are the most common Norwegian words and that their reading will be improved a whole lot if they are able to recognize these words quickly. The words need to “stick” to their minds like gum! We call them “Gum ball Words”! 🙂 Therefor we will start an activity where they will practice reading a list of 50 gum ball words in only 1 minute. The words all need to be read correctly and in time. When they are able to do that, they will receive an orange gum ball that they can stick in their gum ball machine, and they will receive their new list of words (set #2 – yellow).

After the introduction, the group of students take turns timing and reading the list. We use a small “hour-glass”, but you could also use a digital timer. Before the school year starts I prepare a notebook for each sets of gum ball words where I note down all the results. It`s great to be able to refer to their last results every time we start the center work. Normally I will have 4-5 students in a group, and they will get to read their list about 2-3 times, every time they`re at the teacher led word work station. We do this about once every week. Students take their lists home to practice as well, and believe me, they DO PRACTICE A LOT (!), so you better have the next list ready! After a few weeks my students are normally split over 4-5 different lists 🙂


In additon to my own gum ball notebooks, I have laminated big gum balls for every list and hung in the window or on the wall. I use a marker to write each students name on the same gum ball as the list they are currently working on. I think it`s a great visual for me and the students, and they love erasing their name and move it up to the next gum ball. Though it`s a race against the clock and some students get very competitive, I have had only positive experiences with this system and the kids get so engaged and cheer on each other to “beat the clock”. We have tons of fun :)!

As we only have the gum ball activity at a teacher led station once a week, the students practice the words in a student led word work station one of the other days. For every list there are small flash cards with the words on, that I laminate and put on a key ring. I split the list in half and keep them on separate key rings for the youngest students in year 1 and 2. This means that they will have 1 minute to read 25 words instead of 50 words. The students practice together using the flash cards and a timer. With some classes I have had a notebook on this center too, similar to my gum ball teacher notebook, and asked students to write down their results. This has been more a way of supervising their work.

At the end of every month we have a short Gum ball Award Ceremony. Students that have mastered a specific list of words receive a diploma to take home – this is VERY popular in my classroom! I am also thinking of giving the students a pack of gum when they have mastered all 10 lists 🙂

I have created the lists in both Norwegian bokmål and nynorsk. Every set contains instructions, a gum ball machine, small gum balls, a big gum ball, the list of words, front cover for the gum ball notebook, recording sheets and flash cards.  You can buy them separately or in bundles. Click the pictures below to go to my Teachers Pay Teachers Shop and pick up your sets today :)!

Set #1 – Orange
Bundle 1: Set # 2, 3 & 4 
          Bundle 2: Set # 5, 6 & 7

Tick-tack, tick-tack… 😉

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