What are High Frequency Words (Sight Words)?

What are High Frequency Words and Why Learn Them?

High Frequency Words (HFW) and Medium Frequency Words (MFW) are a small group of common words (+/- 300) that account for a very large percentage of all the words we encounter in every day reading, writing and spelling.  

High Frequency Words are known as ‘sight words’, because they are best memorised by sight. High and Medium Frequency Words are essential words that all children need to learn in order to tackle reading simple texts and learn how to spell in order to write sentences that make sense.

Many of these common words have irregular spellings and do not always follow the normal rules of synthetic phonics, and they tend to be rather abstract without being able to use meaningful picture cues, which makes them difficult to remember. So, for children who are unable to remember difficult spellings or irregular spelling rules, they experience more success learning and memorising High Frequency Words by sight.

As many children find spelling quite tricky, it may take longer to achieve automaticity in High Frequency Words. Sometimes, children are able to memorise spellings for a spelling test, but later forget how to spell the same words in free writing. This is because they need to be practised in a multisensory way and reviewed and practised regularly until the spellings are transfered into children’s long-term memories.

The High Frequency Words in both the workbooks are based on Dolch’s list of basic sight words and Fry’s list of most essential words.

  • The first 25 HFW make up 33% of all the words your child will encounter in elementary reading and spelling.
  • The first 100 HFW appear in 50% of all pupil and adult writing
  • The first 1000 words are used in 89% of all writing

Children are generally taught how to spell HFW in the following years at school:

My Spelling Book 1: High Frequency Words:

  • Reception – the first 45 HFW
  • Years 1 and 2 – approximately 105 HFW
  • Year 3 – revise the first 150 HFW again

My Spelling Book 2: Medium Frequency Words:

  • Year 4 and Year 5 – 120 (MFW)

There have been many studies on the importance of teachers teaching children how to spell high frequency words.  Thomas Horn, in his article on spelling in the Encyclopedia of Educational Research, reported that “there is as yet no field-tested substitute for direct instruction on the basic core of high frequency words needed in child and adult writing”. The article states that a good spelling program should concentrate on teaching children to spell words of highest frequency in the writing of both children and adults, and that teachers should choose high frequency words for children to learn to spell.

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High Frequency Words

High Frequency Spelling Book 1

Medium Frequency Words

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