Teaching High-Frequency Words with Phonics

Teaching High-Frequency Words with Phonics

"How many 'sight' words should a child be able to read by the end of kindergarten?" Framing the question this way leads people to look at the problem from the wrong perspective.

Children do need to be able to easily read common words. However, some of the most common words have more complex phonics elements. Words like 'the' and 'of' are very common but have digraphs or irregular spellings. But there are tons of common words without these challenges.

We need to start with the words that can be easily sounded out.

High-frequency words aren't magical. They don't exist in a separate category that can't be learned with phonics. They don't have to be learned through memorization.

All the words below can be sounded out by a student who only knows the five short vowels and the basic consonants, all of which can be taught in the first three months of kindergarten. The words in each section are sorted in order of frequency. By teaching these words students will be able to read over 150 high-frequency words.

Then what? Teach students digraphs like and so that words like 'the', 'that', 'such', and 'much' make sense. We can demystify high-frequency words by teaching their phonics elements!

Two Sound Words

Some of these words use double letters for a single sound. Explain to the student that even though there are two of a consonant, they should only say the sound once.


Three Sound Words

Consonant-Vowel-Consonant (CVC) & Vowel-Consonant-Consonant (VCC) words


Four Sound Words

Consonant-Vowel-Consonant-Consonant (CVCC) & Consonant-Consonant-Vowel-Consonant (CCVC) words


Five or more Sound Words

Consonant-Consonant-Vowel-Consonant-Consonant (CCVCC) words


* In these words, the letter "s" is used to spell the sound . This happens in many words because the sounds are so similar. You can learn more about the letter "s" as the sound /z/ in our article on Letter-Sound Correspondences.