What are high frequency words and why does my child need to know them? 

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Recently, I asked a poll over on my Instagram stories and one of the big queries that flagged up was… high frequency words! 

Today, I am hoping to remove the mystery by telling you exactly what they are, when your child will learn them and why they are so important! 

Don’t forget, if you’re looking for a screen-free solution for learning high frequency words, there are a ton of resources inside The Little Learning Hub! 

What are high frequency words (HFW)?

High frequency words are the words we use most often in our everyday language. You know, the ones that pop up all the time like “the,” “and,” “a,” “in,” “to,” and so on. They may not be the most exciting or glamorous words, but they’re crucially important for building sentences and communicating effectively. In fact, high frequency words make up about 80% of the words we use in typical communication. So, even though they might not be the flashiest words out there, they’re definitely worth paying attention to!


Why are high frequency words so important?

High frequency words are really important building blocks for learning because they’re the words we use all the time when we talk or write. Think about it: without knowing these words, we’d have a hard time understanding each other. For example, imagine trying to read a sentence without knowing the high frequency words such as “the,” “and,” or “in.” Plus, when kids learn these words, it helps them to read more fluently, which is a major skill they’ll need in school and beyond. So, knowing high frequency words is actually an important skill!

When are high frequency words introduced?

Children typically start learning about high frequency words in their first years of primary school. If your child attends a school nursery, they might very well have seen them already, however usually children begin to learn them in reception (or kindergarten in the US). At this stage, they are taught to recognise and read these common words by sight, as well as to spell them correctly. High frequency word lists are often used as part of reading programs to help children build their vocabulary and improve their reading fluency. As children progress through school, they continue to encounter new high frequency words and are expected to use them in their writing and speaking.

So, the earlier they start learning about these important words, the better!


Are high frequency words the same as tricky, common exception or sight words?

No, high frequency words are not the same as tricky words (sometimes called common exception words or even sight words), but they are related.

Where high frequency words are words used frequently when reading, writing and speaking, tricky or common exception words are words that cannot be easily sounded out or spelled phonetically, and they often do not follow regular spelling patterns. 

These include words like “people,” “know,” and “the”. Simply, they are words which cannot be sounded out using phonics knowledge. For example, if you sound out t-h-e and blend the three sounds together… it sounds nothing like the word ‘the’ right? That’s why it’s a common exception word!

So, while high frequency words and tricky words are not the same thing, they are both important for children to learn in order to become proficient readers and writers.


What are the first 100 high frequency words?

  1. the
  2. that
  3. not
  4. look
  5. put
  6. and
  7. with
  8. then
  9. don’t
  10. could
  11. a
  12. all
  13. were
  14. come
  15. house
  16. to
  17. we
  18. go
  19. will
  20. old
  21. said
  22. can
  23. little
  24. into
  25. too
  26. in
  27. are
  28. as
  29. back
  30. by
  31. he
  32. up
  33. no
  34. from
  35. day
  36. I
  37. had
  38. mum
  39. children
  40. made
  41. of
  42. my
  43. one
  44. him
  45. time
  46. it
  47. her
  48. them
  49. Mr
  50. I’m
  51. was
  52. what
  53. do
  54. get
  55. if
  56. you
  57. there
  58. me
  59. just
  60. help
  61. they
  62. out
  63. down
  64. now
  65. Mrs
  66. on
  67. this
  68. dad
  69. came
  70. called
  71. she
  72. have
  73. big
  74. oh
  75. here
  76. is
  77. went
  78. when
  79. about
  80. off
  81. for
  82. be
  83. it’s
  84. got
  85. asked
  86. at
  87. like
  88. see
  89. their
  90. saw
  91. his
  92. some
  93. looked
  94. people
  95. make
  96. but 
  97. so
  98. very
  99. your
  100. an


How do I support my child with learning their high frequency words? 

The best way to learn high frequency words is through repeated fun activities. There are so many words to learn and children will need both reading and spelling practice, so the only way to achieve this is through little and often practice. 

Unfortunately, some children are taught to learn high frequency words in the wrong way. For example, when I was a child, I was made to write words I couldn’t spell out over and over. This made me hate learning spellings and it is still my weakest area to this day! 

If you’re worried about this and want to make sure you are supporting your child’s high frequency word development in the best possible way, or you’re looking for a done-for-you selection of high frequency word resources and activities, The Little Learning Hub contains a huge selection perfect for children aged 1-7. Members can download every resource for unlimited printing and display! 

Comments on What are high frequency words and why does my child need to know them? 

  1. Claire Gelson says:

    Could this be put into a resource to print!

    1. Kimberley says:

      Hi Claire,
      We actually have a few high frequency word resources already in the hub. Is there anything specifically you would like to see?
      Here is the link to the cards: https://thelittlelearninghub.co.uk/courses/100-high-frequency-words/
      Hope that helps, but any questions, please ask!
      Kimberley 🙂

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