This post is Part Two in the ‘Reading with Dyslexia’ series, where I focus on HIGH-FREQUENCY WORDS.

If you missed Part One Sounds, you could catch up here.




High-frequency words may also be known as sight words or tricky words. These words are prevalent in our vocabulary, whether we’re reading or speaking. More often than not, high-frequency words can’t be sounded out or blended.


Authors and academics, wrote a book called The Reading Teacher’s Book of Lists.  In the book it states the most common 100 words (here we call them high-frequency words) make up a massive 50 per cent of all text we read (i.e. AND, HAVE, THE). And the 25 most common words make up a third. Therefore, if your child can automatically read and say all of these words, it’ll make reading at a quicker pace, and grasping other subjects, easier.

Learning new words can be difficult for dyslexic children as getting further information into their long-term memory can prove challenging. However, with perseverance, repetition, and a variety of learning techniques, your dyslexic child can and will master high-frequency words.

Here are some tips to help.


1. Focus on three words at a time

Get your child to pick three new high-frequency words to learn at the start of each week. Make it your aim, together, to learn those words by Sunday evening. If three feels like too much, don’t worry, pick one or two – keep it achievable.  Sometimes you may need longer than a week to learn them. Your child mustn’t feel any pressure and they’re learning at their own pace. 

2. Make the word in many different ways

Practise forming the word in as many fun ways as possible, using anything other than a pen!  E.g. use wooden letters, magnetic letters on the fridge, pipe the words on a cupcake, cut out letters from newspaper headlines and stick them together.  Letters with lovely textures are brilliant – your child can close their eyes and feel the shape the word makes.

3. Draw pictures to identify the words

Get your child to write each word, significant and in colour, on a separate piece of paper or card. Then ask them to draw a picture next to the word that explains it. The image can be anything; however each picture does need to be different. The aim is for your child to associate a photo with a word. When we see a picture of a cat, it’s easy for us to identify the word with the animal. However, the word ‘and’ is more difficult to visualise. Use your newly created flashcards throughout the week to help get each of the words into your child’s long-term memory.

4. Practise reading the words in a sentence

Type up a few simple sentences with your target words in them and ask your child to read these.  It’s essential always to practise reading these words in sentences and passages.  I like the Open Dyslexic Font for my sentences – it may be easier for your child to read.

5. Ask your child to point out the words in a story

Finding different ways to read with your child can make learning more fun. In your usual reading sessions, ask your child to flick through the page of the story and see if they can point out their high-frequency words.

6. Once the three words are automatic, choose another three

If your child has mastered the three words, get them to choose three more. However, if your child needs more time, stick with your current set and focus on them until they become automatic. Always keep going back for a little refresher of the old words, to continue strengthening their memory.  You could try new ways of learning the words if flashcards aren’t cutting it. I’ve written some ideas below. The main thing is to not worry about how long it takes. Keep the pace slow and steady. Your child will get there in the end.



Dyslexic children have strong visual-memories. So, if you can be creative when it comes to learning, it’ll play to these strengths.

Here are some games you can play with your child to help with the top 100 high-frequency words.

1. Make words with Bear Alphabites Cereal

Ok, so we’re always telling our children not to play with their food, but here we can create an exception to the rule! Bear Alphabites Cereal is made up of lots of little multigrain letters. Allow your child to sift through the box and make up the three words they’re learning using the cereal letters. Once they’ve finished the task, they can eat the letters, providing a yummy snack!

2. Colouring in

Draw a big outline of the word and ask your child to colour it in. They could go one better and design a fab pattern to go inside the letters too. 

3. Playdoh word sculptures

Ronald Davies is a well-known dyslexia expert. He developed a learning programme after discovering new ways to learn with his dyslexia struggles. Ronald believes making word sculptures will help letters and sounds get into automatic memory. Most children love playing with playdoh or coloured clay, so make it an after school activity. Ask your child to spell out a word in clay and make a model to associate with it. It’s like creating your flashcards but in 3D!

4. Make a memory game

Make two cards of each word and play the memory game – start with 2 x 3 sets of cards, turn them over and match the card – saying the word as you find the matching pair.  Each week add in the next set, so you’re continually reinforcing all the words.  This is great for concentration too!

5. High-frequency word Apps

There are lots of different reading apps, and I like these for high-frequency words:

Drop me a note if you’d like more tips to support your child with reading.

Keep in touch for the next post in my Reading with Dyslexia series.

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