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What is the difference between irregular sight words and high-frequency sight words?

CCSS ELA Literacy K-2, Foolproof Phonics App, ELA K-2, ELA Kindergarten, ELA 1st Grade, ELA 2nd Grade



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High-frequency words are words that appear commonly in children's books. These are also worth learning by sight. Examples of high frequency words include words such as are and she. Many high-frequency words can also be irregular such as put and was; children are not taught to pronounce s as a /z/. There are many wordlists that consist of both high-frequency words and irregular words.

The two most common sight word lists teachers use are the Dolch list and the Fry list. Both the Dolch and Fry word lists are based on reviews of the most frequently occurring words in the English language. However, they include words that are both irregular and words that can be sounded out.

The Dolch list contains 315 high-frequency words. Dolch sight words are based on high-frequency words that students in Kindergarten, First Grade, and Second Grade encounter in children’s books. Dolch words are listed by age group (e.g. Kindergarten, Grade 1, etc.).

Dr. Edward Fry developed the larger Fry list in the 1950s and updated it in 1980. The Fry list contains 1,000 high-frequency words ranked by order of frequency. This list is based on the most common words to appear in reading materials used in Grades 3-9. However, given the emphasis given on decoding words using phonics, contemporary literacy experts advise that not too many words are learned by sight -- a child only needs to learn the 200-300 high frequency ones that would help them speed up their reading but the rest they should be able to sound out.

Generally, children are expected to master around 50 high-frequency words by the end of Kindergarten/Reception and 100 by the end of First Grade/Year 1. Both Dolch and Fry words can be taught in any order (within their respective age or level categories). The Dolch list comprises words that are suitable for Kindergarten and First Grade, while only the first 100 Fry words are suitable for Kindergarten and First Grade. For younger students, instruction generally starts with short words that appear frequently in the texts they are reading, such as a, the, an, can, is, of, you, he, and I.


Fry sight words list by frequency

Sample Pack

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We’re making it easy to find, integrate, and share character-rich, curriculum-aligned resources for Kindergarten to Grade 2. It’s time to streamline virtual learning and make it fun.

Here’s our quick-start guide to using Mrs Wordsmith’s resources with Google Classroom, Seesaw, Zoom, and Microsoft Teams.

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Deep Dive

Mastery Learning the alphabet is the first step on every child’s reading journey. Research shows that children with prior knowledge of the alphabet learn to read more easily and more fluently, so it’s vitally important that the alphabet is taught in a playful and engaging way.

When learning their ABCs, children have to understand that each letter has a different shape and name, and that letters combine to form words. By making it clear that the letter A is not just for apple but also for avocado, children learn that A makes a constant sound across different words. Learning the most common sound that each letter makes is an essential, foundational skill that will be built on later when children encounter phonics.

Read our report, A Deep Dive Into Phonics, for more!