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Phonics and Sight Words

Updated: Jul 5

High-frequency words and sight words have been used interchangeably for many years. Dr. Edward Dolch introduced the first list of sight words in the 30s and 40s, and later in the 1970s, Dr. Edward Fry published his own list called, 1000 Instant Words: The Most Common Words for Teaching Reading, Writing and Spelling. The practice of memorizing sight words with the aim of developing automaticity, thereby improving fluency and comprehension, has endured over the decades.

Advocates of the science of reading propose instructing students in decoding sight words. One reasoning behind this approach is that many sight words can be decoded by applying phonics rules. Although some argue that this undermines the automaticity aspect of sight words and compromises both fluency and comprehension, the reality is that once learned, sight words can be read automatically thereafter. Through practice, word exploration, orthographic mapping, and repetition, words that were initially decoded can be read with automaticity, thereby enhancing fluency.


For a structured literacy approach, you can access a categorized list of high-frequency (Fry words) based on phonics skills.


100 Words (Phonics)
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