These reading printables should help your child to learn the high frequency words (also called sight words or key words). However, memorising a string of, lets face it, pretty meaningless words, is not an easy thing to do. So, as well as pointing out the words in books, newspapers and on posters, you can help your child to learn the words using a game (or better still, lots of different games). This way, your child will be able to learn the words almost effortlessly.
Although the English language contains many thousands of words, research by Solity 2005 has shown that just 16 words (a, and, he, I, in, is, it, my, of, that, the, then, to, was, went, with) make up a quarter of all the words in a typical text, whether aimed at adults or children, and that a total of 100 words (including the 16 most common) represent half the words in a text. Learning these "high frequency words" can give your child a head start in learning to read.
The Letters and Sounds site has free colourful printable resources for tricky words, which are the high frequency words that don't follow the simple phonic code (scroll down to the bottom of the page). The High Frequency Words site has lots of free printables to help with teaching all of the most common sight words, divided into the Letters and Sounds phases.
Reception High Frequency Words (4 pages, 20kb)
This is a list of the 45 words to be learnt in Reception year. You can print them out to use as flashcards, or better still make a game (see below for ideas).
Year 1 and 2 High Frequency Words (7 pages, 35kb)
This list for Year 1 and 2 includes more than 160 words. In addition, children should be able to read and write their own name and address, and their school's name and address. It does sound a lot, but it works out at 80 per year, or less than 30 per school term.
100 Essential Words (7 pages, 27kb)
Alternatively, if you're homeschooling or are helping your child learn to read before they start school, this list contains the words identified by Solity's research. Solity found that learning a total of just 100 words, coupled with a basic grasp of phonics enables children to learn to read most efficiently, without wasting time learning words which don't occur very often.
Ideas for games to play with the flashcards
Print two copies of the words, using two different colours of paper, and cut out the word cards. The first thing you need to do is to limit the number of word cards you use at any one time. For a 4-5 year old, no more than 6 words will avoid overloading them (4 might be even better). Hide the rest away for another day.
Simple matching game
Not so much a game this one, as there is no winner, but many young children seem to enjoy straightforward matching activities without the need for any competitiveness! Spread out six cards of one colour (face up), reading each word out as you put it down. Then give your child the matching cards in the other colour. Read out the first word for them and ask them if they can find the matching word and place their card next to it. It can help to hold the card next to each word in turn to enable easy matching. You can encourage them and emphasise the word, e.g. "This word is 'and' - does that one say 'and'? No, let's try this one. Is it 'and'?" etc.
Spread out your two sets of matching cards, face down. Take turns to pick up two cards, one of each colour. Read each word as you or your child turns it over. Check whether the words match - if they do, keep them and have another go. If they don't, put them back face down and let the other player have a turn. Soon, your child will begin to read the words without you.
Shuffle up the cards and share them out. Each player takes turns to turn over their card, put it down and read the word. If it matches the previous card played, the first person to notice shouts 'snap!' and wins the pile. This game is best used to practise words your child knows fairly well, rather than new ones, as it's quite fast-paced.
Once your child knows a word reliably, you can 'retire' it from your current pack of cards and bring in a new word. Every so often, play a game with the 'retired' cards, so that your child doesn't forget them. It's a good idea to try and discard an known word and add a new word every day, once your child is getting the hang of learning new words.