Why High Frequency Words Are So Important

High Frequency words (or Sight Words) are grouped into lists of 100 of the most commonly found words in the English language.  At my public school (in California) it is suggested that students master the first 100 words by the end of first grade, up to 200 words by second, 300 by third, etc.  When I say master, I mean they must be able to read the word immediately without a chance to sound it out. 

High frequency words (HFW) are often called sight words because they must be memorized by sight.  The reason for this is that many HFWs can not be sounded out.  These words should be memorized a few at a time, and constantly revisited until the child is able to read, write, and spell them easily.

Here is a link to lists of high frequency words. Often you will see the words Dolch or Fry's which refers to the author who compiled the list.  At my school we frequently use the Fry's list of HFWs.

There are many different ways to teach sight words, and I feel that the flashcard method of drill-and-kill is often ineffective.  I usually prefer to teach these words in a way that will get the attention of the student.  Whether through games, word hunts, or word searches in books, there are many creative ways one can teach high frequency words.  Here is a link to Carl's Corner where she suggests dozens of ideas for teaching these words.


  1. Thank you for your explanation of why they are important. I thought teaching kids to memorize words on sight would defeat the "sound it out" method, but I didn't even think that these were words you couldn't really sound out. My son is in kindergarten and they're already pushing him hard to learn to read. Thank you also for those links, I'll definitely check them out!

  2. @Nikki,
    Just to be clear, HFWs should be memorized by sight; however, when students are learning to read they SHOULD be sounding out all other words. Learning to read by memorizing all new words (known as Whole Language approach) is extremely ineffective and does NOT teach students how to read new words on their own.
    I strongly believe in learning to read through phonics, with memorization of HFWs and words that are not-phonetic in spelling.
    Let me know if you have any more questions.

  3. Thanks so much for stopping by http://supermamawannabe.blogspot.com! I love your blog and have just subscribed via email. I look forward to coming back and exploring! I have 3 boys, one is an advanced reader but my middle guy has a little trouble with comprehension so I'd love some ideas of things I can do to help him with this. My little guy is just 2 and I'm really hoping to get him off on the right track. We read tons every day so I know that's a good start!


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