High-Frequency Sight Words

High-Frequency Sight Words

The Fry List, Instant Words, Dolch Words, and Word Wall Words

"For instructional purposes these are usually referred to as sight words or sight vocabulary because we would like our students to recognize them in less than a second. Why? Because this enhances their chance of getting to the end of a sentence in time to remember how it began."

Frank B. May in Reading as Communication

What exactly are "sight words?" These are words that good readers may instantly recognize without having to "figure them out." There are two reasons why sight words are an essential component of good reading: First of all, many of these words do not sound like their spellings might suggest, so "sounding them out" would be unproductive. Also, a good reader really can’t afford the time to dwell on too many words, or he may lose the speed and fluency necessary for determining the author’s message.

How should we decide which words to teach as sight words? Studies suggest that the most in our language, known as "high-frequency words" be the best place to start. Believe it or not, the 100 most common words actually make up about 50 percent of the material we read! The 25 most common words make up about -third of our written material (Fry, Kress, and Fountoukidis).

We can enable our students to greatly increase their reading efficiency when we teach them to read half or more of the words they encounter in a quick and automatic manner.

You can probably guess correctly at many of the most common words in our written language, such as: the, a, is, of, to, in, and, I, you, and that. You may also want to refer to lists assembled by Dolch or by Fry, Kress, and Fountoukidis.

"Amazing, isn’t it? We have over a half-million words to communicate with, but half of everything we write and read depends on only 0.02 percent--on only those 100 most frequent words." — Frank B. May in Reading as Communication


The Reading Teacher’s Book of Lists 
Fry, E., Kress, J., and Fountoukidis, D. Paramus, New Jersey: Prentice Hall. 

Teach Reading Creatively: Reading and Writing as Communication (7th Edition)


See Our Pages on High-Frequency Words:
Practice with Abstract Sight Words
More on Practice with Sight Words
Betsy B. Lee on Teaching Dolch Words
Dolch’s List of Basic Sight Words
High-Frequency Words: Classroom Activities

See Our Other Pages on Word Study and Phonics:
Working and Playing with Words
Word Families

See Also:
Fry’s 300 Instant Sight Words


Resources for Practice with Sight Words:  


Books Classroom Aids
Flash Cards and Activities Computer Aided Learning