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Skill Overview

What are regularly spelled high frequency words?

High frequency words are often called sight words because the expectation is that students will recognize them “by sight”, suggesting that these words should be committed to memory without decoding them.  There are two kinds of high frequency words:  irregularly spelled and regularly spelled. Regularly spelled high frequency words are completely decodable and should be taught (and mastered) according to their spelling patterns (e.g., closed syllable words like man; open syllable words like go; and c-le words like table). 

What tasks should students be able to demonstrate to indicate mastery of this skill?

  • ​Spell the words accurately.

  • Read the words with automaticity and accuracy.

Why is understanding regularly spelled high frequency words important to reading?

Reading high frequency words quickly, easily, and effortlessly contributes to fluency and comprehension when reading and writing.  Automaticity in reading HFW allows students to spend their mental energy decoding more complicated unknown words.

Structured Literacy Tools

Sequential and Cumulative

Systematic and Explicit

To Mastery

Students demonstrate mastery of Regularly Spelled High Frequency Words when they can automatically and accurately read the words. Rapid naming of words is an important part of reading fluently (Reutzel & Cooter, 2011).  See below for ways to assess  Regularly Spelled High Frequency Words.

Regularly Spelled High Frequency Words (HFWs) are taught according to the phonics scope and sequence when teaching the related short vowel sounds.  Short vowels are taught in this order: a, i, o, u, e, according to Readsters. 


Memorizing regularly spelled HFWs is not encouraged.  Time is better spent teaching letter-sound correspondence and blending sounds including those in regularly spelled HFWs. An exception to this rule is 10 irregularly spelled words, which should be taught one at at time and memorized as students are learning their letters and sounds. Those words are the, a, I, of, is, you, are, was, has, to.  These words will help students begin reading connected text more quickly. (Readsters, 2013)

Regularly spelled HFWs should be grouped according to phonics pattern being taught.  Once spelling patterns have been explicitly and systematically taught, students can practice building and sorting words using those patterns. Example:  High Frequency Words that have short a, which is taught early in the phonics sequence, are at, and, can, am, an, ran, and had

Routine for teaching decodable HFWs:

1. Review the vowel sound.

2. Teacher says the word. Students repeat. 

3. Finger stretch the word. 

4. Teacher writes the word sound-by-sound.

4. Students say each sound and write it.

Practice Resources

Downloadable Files From BRI Resources
Downloadable Files From Literacy Partners



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