high frequency word list

Sometimes I use the terms sight words and high frequency words interchangeably, but there really is a distinction here. So what’s the difference between the two?

Sight word: A sight word is a word that doesn’t follow the rules of spelling and phonics. Students must memorize sight words because these words can’t be dedoded.

High frequency words: Students will encounter these words frequently in reading in writing. A high frequency word can be decoded using common word patterns. However, the phonics rules are sometimes at higher level skills that your kiddos may not be ready to tackle yet.

So, even though high frequency words can be decoded, young students need to learn to read them automatically without having to decode them one by one.

What’s really cool is that 65% of all English written language comes from only 300 words!

This makes it super important that our students learn to read these 300 high frequency words automatically. When students focus too much on trying to sound out words, comprehension and meaning break down.

Students must be able to recognize these words instantly for good reading fluency. Being able to accurately spell these words will also make a difference in writing progress.

Now we know that automatically being able to read the 300 most commonly used words will help with reading fluency, we can’t forget about decoding and phonics skills.

According to brain research, strong readers are really reading by sounds… even when they read a word instantly without thought. Students need to use their knowledge of letters and sounds while learning the high frequency words.

How to Teach and Practice High Frequency Words:

I find that using a word wall in the classroom makes a huge difference! There are tons of word wall activities that can be done whole group, partners and learning centers.

A simple word wall activity to implement in your classroom is I’m Thinking of a Word.

I’m Thinking of a Word:

  • I love this strategy because it practices fluency, reading automaticity, phonics, rhyming, opposites, comprehension, and whatever else you want to add.
  • Tell your students, “I’m thinking of a word. When you know the word, please raise your hand. This word means the same thing as begin. It is the opposite of stop. This word rhymes with heart.” (word was start)
  • Keep giving clues and hints until your students are successful.
  • I will usually have them to write the words in a journal as well.

Using these words in learning centers and games is also a great way to help students to read them automatically. Popcorn Words is one of my favorites!

Another one of my favorite strategies for practicing high frequency words is through nursery rhymes. I like using a nursery rhyme poetry notebook where students can read, write and think!

Grab your free resource: FREEBIE: 300 Most Commonly Used High Frequency Words.

How do you practice high frequency words in your classroom? Please leave me your ideas in the comments below.

high frequency word list

Best wishes!


2 Comments on Top 300 Words Your Students MUST Be Able to Read INSTANTLY

  1. Julie
    January 3, 2017 at 10:06 am (12 months ago)

    I am doing something new this year with my word wall. Students sit on the floor with a white board and marker. I pretest them on each new word wall word (5 – 6 words). Then, I tack each word up on the wall in front of them and they can check if they spelled it correctly. I am hoping this will help them remember where they can find the word when they need it! The week before break I gave a spelling inventory test from Words their Way and when we got to “wishes” (a word I put up to show one way to make a word plural) someone shouted out, “That’s on the word wall!” After I tack all of the new words up we play the game you mentioned, “I’m thinking of a word…” They number their whiteboard from 1 – 5 and make a guess for each of the five clues I give.

    • Jen
      January 17, 2017 at 12:58 pm (11 months ago)

      I absolutely LOVE Words Their Way and have used it many times. It is such a great resource. It sounds like you are doing some really awesome things in your classroom. Thanks so much for sharing.


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