Instructional Activities

Irregular and High Frequency Words

Not all words use the most common phoneme-grapheme correspondences, but most words are at least partially decodable.  Many words appear so frequently in text that children need to learn them before they have been taught the necessary phoneme-grapheme correspondences.  The resources in this section provide a range of options for you to teach such words.


Irregular Words
Many common words present challenges to children because they are irregular in some way.  An irregular word is a word that presents a challenge for decoding. These words contain elements that do not follow the most common letter-sound correspondences.  Some words are permanently irregular.  In these words, the sounds of the letters are unique to that word or to a very small number of words.  Other words are temporarily irregular.  This means that the student has not yet learned the letter-sound correspondences in the word.

Although irregular words can be challenging, there are effective methods for teaching them.  The good news is that, in most common irregular words, only one or two letters don’t adhere to expected phoneme-grapheme correspondences.  This means children can learn to decode most of the word, and they only have to learn one or two letters “by heart.”  The Heart Words materials below can be used to teach irregular words this way.  This approach can promote children’s orthographic mapping.

Once an irregular word has been introduced and taught, which includes sounding out the decodable parts and recognizing the part(s) that need to be learned by heart, flash cards can be an effective tool for practice.  For many readers, irregular words are committed to memory after only a few (1-4) exposures.  A struggling reader may need 20 or more exposures to the same word before it can be recognized on sight.

Here’s a helpful article about teaching irregular words.

Irregular “Heart” Words

This collection of “heart word”slides contains some words that are permanently irregular and others that are temporarily irregular.  Each slide includes teacher guidance in the notes section to explain the irregularities in the word. You can also download and print these Heart Word Cards on card stock.

Heart Word Slides (PowerPoint)

Heart Word Slides (Google Slides)

Heart Word Tutorial

Irregular Word Cards

We also have traditional irregular or “hot” word flash cards and word slides for reviewing with children.

Irregular Word Flash Cards (PowerPoint)

Irregular Word Flash Cards (Google Slides)

Irregular Word Slides (Powerpoint)

Irregular Word Slides (Google Slides)

Tutorials and Sample Lessons

Sample Lesson – Irregular Words

High Frequency Words

Fry High Frequency Word List

Edward Fry developed a list he called “Instant Words,” or the words that readers need to be able to read and comprehend instantly because they are so commonly used.  He revised this list over the years, and the current list is divided into 100s.  We have prepared materials for practicing the first two lists of 100 words.

Fry High Frequency Word List Flash Cards (PowerPoint)

Fry High Frequency Word List Flash Cards (Google Slides)

Fry High Frequency Word List Slides (PowerPoint)

Fry High Frequency Word List Slides (Google Slides)

Dolch High Frequency Word List

In 1936, E. W. Dolch identified the 220 most common words encountered in the text children read.  This high-frequency word list includes many easily decodable words (e.g., it, get) and some words with irregular parts (e.g., was, said).  Learning to sound out these words makes committing them to memory much more successful.

Dolch High Frequency Word List Flash Cards (PowerPoint)

Dolch High Frequency Word List Flash Cards (Google Slides)

Dolch High Frequency Word List Slides (PowerPoint)

Dolch High Frequency Word List Slides (Google Slides)