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High Frequency Words Programme

What are High Frequency Words (HFWs)

High frequency words (HFWs) or sight words are those words that are most commonly used in English text, oral and written. “Mastery of them frees learners to concentrate on the meaning of the text being read.” (ELCG, p.166)

HFWs are the framework of English but are often abstract, so it is not easy to explain the meaning of words such as ‘any’, ‘enough’ and ‘were’. Nor are they often easy to decode phonetically. An analysis of English literature shows:

  • The 250 most frequent words make up 70-75% of all the words children use in their writing. (Blevins, 1997)
  • Nearly a third of these words are irregular or difficult. (Andrews, 1997)
  • Of the top 300 sight words, 87 words are not phonologically regular. (Andrews, 1997)


Teaching HFWs

HFWs are best learned through daily structured instruction and using them in context. Flashcards can assist students to learn these new words ‘on sight’.

KIP is based on the top 400 words of the Holdaway sight word list. It is suggested that KIP schools plan a programme to teach all of the HFWs by the end of KS2.

KIP HFW Flashcards

The KIP HFWs have been organised into 67 sets of six (6) words.

  • Word flashcards – designed to print hard copy sets
  • PowerPoint flashcards – designed for on-screen viewing.

Whilst this may seem a small number of words, it is desired that students memorise a small number of focus words every day for a week, rather than many at a superficial level.

The HFW flashcard resources includes an alphabetical-order HFW list for teacher reference. However, it is important that words are taught in developmental order (from most frequent), not alphabetical order.

For information about planning a HFW programme, and teaching and games for HFWs, see the KIP Teacher Manual: Section 11 (Vocabulary).

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