High Frequency Words and Word Lists...


The most common way to teach High Frequency Words/sight vocabulary is in isolation, using flash cards.

Many sight words cannot be sounded out.

Repeated flash card drills are intended to help students remember these words automatically.


Automatic recognition is an important concept in early reading instruction.

Automatic recognition enhances meaning or comprehension and promotes reading fluency.

Many books and stories intended to provide practice are dull and uninspiring. They are known as controlled readers. By and large, the information contained in them is non-existent.

Mat the Rat

Mat the rat sat.

He sat and sat.

Mat saw Sam.

Mat and Sam sat.

Even the old reader series featuring Dick and Jane or Alice and Jerry were considered too boring to foster the desire to read.


That’s what led Rudy Flesch to write a bestseller called,

Why Johnny Can’t Read.

In it, he attacked early reading books for reading instructions as

“…horrible, stupid, pointless little readers.”

He also stated that

“…first- and second-graders are not taught to read at all, as shown by the fact that there isn’t a single book that they can manage to read by themselves.”

Flesch asserted that the answer to the issue of why Johnny can’t read is simply because he wasn’t taught decoding skills (as in phonics and sound it out… extended in current time to phonemic awareness).

As well, the illustrations accompanying texts for practice carried minimal enhancements to the context. How could they?

And, then, in 1957, along comes Theodore Geisel, a successful author of children’s books under the pen name of Dr. Seuss.

In the late 50’s, Geisel took on a bet that he couldn’t write a book using just 50 words.

He won the bet!

Forty-nine words in Green Eggs and Ham are one-syllable.

The 50th word is ‘anywhere.’

Clearly, in this book, the illustrations enhance the text and the theme.

When illustrations are done superbly, as they are in Green Eggs and Ham, we can see character attitudes, antics, and humor.

How can one syllable words (with, and, the, a, so, on, or, are, if, in) convey interest, excitement, and sustained attention?

Visualize reading the book without illustrations!

Few authors have the genius of storytelling combined with illustrating talent as Theodore Geisel. Green Eggs and Ham is the twelfth bestselling children’s hardcover title of all time, according to howstuffworks.com.

Given the value in flashcard drill and sight vocabulary development, the question of meaning, or what each word means, is at issue.

Placing the drilled words in a sentence and story gives rise to some level of meaning. As well, children use these same words in their everyday speech.

Because of that, understanding and knowing are implied.

However, when asked what a sight vocabulary word means children, as well as adults, are stumped and use the same word to define it.

Legal documents are filled with those same high frequency use words. How many of us become hopelessly frustrated at gaining meaning from small print legalese?

To arrive at meaning, a whole lot of dictionary work is implied. And…one had better have a good quality dictionary at hand…one that has illustrated usage at different levels of meaning.

Meaning makes the difference.

Variations in ranking for common, high frequency use words are based on the body of work used to establish the list. The same word can have four different rankings on four different word lists.

Authors of some lists have stated, clearly, that the words that show up on High Frequency word lists make up 50 to 65% of all communications.

My question is this: If that assertion is true, wouldn’t it enhance our communications if we taught meaning of those words at an early age?

Bottom line: Knowing the meaning of sight words trumps flashcard recognition and faulty assumptions based on usage.

Home Gallery FAQ-head Testimonials Price List View Cart Contact Us