What Are High-Frequency Words? | A Guide For Parents

by | Mar 17, 2022 | Core Skills

You want your child to become a confident reader. One of the best ways to do that is to help them learn high-frequency words. These words are the ones your child will see in nearly every book they open.

Because they’re so common, high-frequency words provide the building blocks for children’s reading success. Learning to recognize these words quickly and automatically is an important step in becoming a fluent reader.

There are many ways you can help your child master these words. But first, you have to know what they are.

What Are High-Frequency Words?

Young girl learning high-frequency words

Back in the 1930s, Dr. Edward William Dolch started studying how children learn to read. He found that certain words make up a high percentage of the text found in books for young readers.

Using his research, Dolch compiled a list of 220 words that were used most frequently in children’s books. He also created a list of 95 common nouns. Between the two lists, there are 315 words.

Dolch believed that if a child mastered those words by the end of third grade, they would be able to read proficiently. Though Dolch wrote his list long before your child was born, it’s not out of date.

Subsequent studies have shown that these words continue to make up most words in children’s books. Today, teachers and reading specialists refer to Dolch’s list of words as “high-frequency” or “sight” words.

To become a good reader, your child needs to know these words by sight, meaning they shouldn’t need to stop and sound them out. And the best way for that to happen is through lots of practice.

Which Words Are Considered High-Frequency?

Young girl writing on chalk board while learning high-frequency words

Before your child can practice, you need to know what words to work on. The main 220 high-frequency words are broken down by grade level. Here are a handful of the words you’ll find on each:


  • Away
  • Find
  • Said
  • The
  • You


  • Are
  • New
  • That
  • With
  • Yes

First Grade

  • Again
  • From
  • Of
  • Then
  • Walk

Second Grade

  • Because
  • Does
  • Goes
  • Read
  • Would

Third Grade

  • About
  • Draw
  • Laugh
  • Together
  • Light

There’s also a list of 95 high-frequency nouns. Here are some of those words:

  • Apple
  • Birthday
  • Children
  • Flower
  • Robin
  • Stick

As you can see, these words are ones your child is likely to encounter many times in different types of children’s books.

Why Are Sight Words Important?

Girl reading a book

Sight words are important for children to master. But why do they take so much practice?

First, many of these words can’t be sounded out using the traditional phonetic rules. Words such as the, said, and again are rule-breakers. If your child doesn’t know what these words say, they’ll get stuck on them while reading.

Also, being able to read high-frequency words without decoding them allows your child to read more quickly. That makes reading more enjoyable and helps your child feel confident in their reading abilities.

Finally, when your child doesn’t have to stop to sound out words while they’re reading, their brain can focus on the meaning of the words instead. And that deepens their comprehension.

How To Help Your Child Master High-Frequency Words

Mom helping a young girl read a book

Now that you know what high-frequency words are and why they’re so important, here are some practical ways to help your child master them.

1) Make Learning Fun

Learning to read doesn’t have to be boring. When working with your child, steer clear of mindless drills or never-ending flashcard sessions.

Instead, look for ways to make learning more enjoyable. For example, pick engaging sight word activities that allow your child to practice what they’re learning without making them miserable.

You can accomplish a lot in just a couple of minutes throughout the day. If you’re looking for a quick way to make reviewing sight words part of your daily routine, give this activity a try.

First, put some index cards in a file box so they’re easily accessible. Then, take five index cards, choose 5 sight words, and write one on each card. These are the words you’re going to work on right now.

Each day, have your child read those five cards. If they read a word correctly and instantly, put a checkmark on it. When a card has three checkmarks, move it to the back of the box. Then, add a new word into the mix.

Once there are ten cards in the back, add a weekly review session into your routine. Go through the mastered words quickly once a week. Any word your child has forgotten (which is totally normal) goes back to the front of the box. Add them back in as a part of your daily five.

2) Read Together

Mom reading with child

It’s important to model good reading for your child. One of the best ways to do this is to spend time reading together every day. When you sit down to read with them, stop to point out the high-frequency words that pop up in the text.

As your child starts recognizing these words, pause when you come to one. Then, ask them to read the word you stopped on.

This activity helps your child become familiar with the words and how they look in context. It also allows you to gauge their understanding of the words. If your child is having trouble reading a certain word, you know it’s one you need to focus on.

3) Go On Word Hunts

You want your child to understand that sight words are everywhere. One way you can do that is by having them go on word hunts.

If you’re out and about, ask them to keep their eyes peeled for high-frequency words. Encourage them to look at signs for words they can read. When they find one, offer plenty of praise for their discovery.

You can also give your child a newspaper or magazine and a pen. Ask them to look through the words and circle the sight words they know. Once they’re done, count the circled words together. Point out how often these words are used.

Your child can also practice searching for sight words with the HOMER app, where you’ll find a variety of sight word games and activities to help them master high-frequency words.

As they play Sight Word Memory or Soak And Sort Sight Words, they’ll be learning to read these words. And since the app creates a personalized learning environment, your child can get started no matter what reading level they are at.

While they play, the HOMER learning journey can gently guide them along the path to becoming better readers.

4) Make Word Soup

Young boy cooking

Don’t worry. There’s no cooking involved in this game. Instead, your child will be stirring together a pot full of sight words.

To play, write some sight words on index cards. Write one word on each card in large letters so it’s easier for your child to read. Then, get out a big soup pot and a large spoon.

When you have your materials gathered, hide five index cards around the room. Then, call your child over. Ask them to find the cards and add them to your soup pot.

As they find each word, have them read it aloud, dump it into the pot, and give it a stir with the spoon.

When all the cards have been added to the soup, use the spoon to fish out a word. Hand it to your child and ask them to read it. Continue scooping out words until they’ve read them all again.

5) Practice Spelling High-Frequency Words

Teacher using letter blocks to teach High-Frequency Words to kids

Spelling and reading go hand in hand. To help your child improve their reading skills, help them learn to spell high-frequency words.

To make it fun, connect spelling with physical or hands-on activities. For example, ask them to jump up and down while spelling the word the. As they jump, they can say “T, h, e spells the.” You can also have them skip, run, crawl, or do jumping jacks as they spell.

Manipulatives such as Scrabble blocks or letter tiles are another fun way to practice spelling. Ask your child to use the letters to spell a word you call out. Once they spell the word correctly, have them read it to you.

Be Your Child’s Reading Coach

Dad reading to sons

With just a little practice each day, you can help your child improve their reading skills. As you coach your child in mastering high-frequency words, you’ll be setting them up for reading success.

To make learning these words even more fun, let them play with the HOMER Learn and Grow app. It will help your child practice sight words through engaging activities. And as they practice regularly, they’ll become an even better reader!


  • Begin Learning Team

    Parents hear so much noise about what matters–it’s hard to know where to begin. That’s where we come in. We are early learning experts & PhDs helping you focus on what matters most for your child.

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Begin Learning Team
Begin Learning Team

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Parents hear so much noise about what matters–it’s hard to know where to begin. That’s where we come in. We are early learning experts & PhDs helping you focus on what matters most for your child.