Sight Words vs. High-Frequency Words

These two are used interchangeably quite often. While it doesn't really matter (I'm not going to throw a giant reading-teacher-hissy-fit if you refer to one while talking about both), but it is helpful to know the difference. Clarifying the difference will help you know how to help your reader when trying to find the best practices to fill in any gaps.

Sight Words

Sight words are the words a reader should automatically identify by sight. Sight words are also set apart because not all of them follow rules (i.e. of, have, been). When I tutor little people I often refer to these words as "naughty" because they do what they want, they do not always follow rules. Therefore, it is important to employ memory strategies when it comes to words readers need to know immediately upon seeing it. Thankfully this list of "naughty" words are relatively small because they say it takes approximately thirty-four times of seeing words in multiple places to commit it to memory!


High Frequency Words

High-Frequency words occur most often in our writing (and should become words readers should identify immediately upon seeing them). It's important for readers to know these words because of how often they come across them in literature. It's equally as important to know them by sight as it is to know their meaning. I created a vocabulary game with these common words to help my 2nd grader think about them on a deeper level (see it here).


There are two lists that are referred to often when it comes to sight words: Dolch and Fry. If you Google "Dolch vs Fry" you will find all kinds of helpful websites (or sites that might confuse you even further), but this is what you need to know about these lists: basically these men (Dolch and Fry) took our language and determined which words occurred most often in literature. That's an amazing feat considering that they determined this list in the 30s and 50s!


Hopefully what I share here with you (and in your email as a subscriber) will help ease the confusion and give some clarity to your sight word instruction.

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