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High Frequency Words

In Reception, your child will be given around 45 high frequency words to learn over the year – the aim is for them to be able to recognise these words and to be able to read them. Children learn these words as part of their phonics lessons and may also bring high frequency words home to read.

Why are they called high frequency?

High frequency words are common words, words that appear very often in written texts. They are a mixture of decodable words (words that can be sounded out) and tricky / exception words (words in which the English spelling code works in an unusual or uncommon way, which means the words have to be learned and recognised by sight).

It is really important that children learn how to read these words as they will make up a large proportion of the words they will be reading in everyday texts. They also need to learn to spell these words as they will find they will need to use them a great deal in their writing. (Research has shown that just 16 words, such as ‘and’, ‘he’, ‘I’ and ‘in’, but also the more phonetically-difficult ‘the’, ‘to’, ‘you’, ‘said’, ‘are’, ‘she’ and ‘was’, make up a quarter of the words in a piece of writing, whether it’s for adults or children.)


What order do children learn high frequency words in?

Children are taught to read in phonics 'phases', and each phase has a corresponding list of high frequency words to learn.


High-frequency words in Reception

Phase 2 phonics is generally taught at the beginning of Reception year.

Phase 3 phonics is generally taught in the middle / towards the end of Reception year.

Phase 4 phonics is generally taught at the end of Reception / beginning of Year 1.

  Decodable words Tricky words
Phase 2 phonics high frequency words a, an, as, at, and, back, big, but, can, dad, had, get, got, him, his, if, in, is, it, mum, not, on, of, off, up the, no, to, into, go, I
Phase 3 phonics high frequency words down, for, look, now, see, that, them, this, then, too, will, with all, are, be, he, her, me, my, she, they, was, we, you
Phase 4 phonics high frequency words went, children, it's, just, from, help come, do, have, like, little, one, out, said, so, some, there, were, what, when