Thursday, October 27, 2016

Decoding the top 100 high frequency words

The following are the 'top 100 hundred high frequency words', as listed in Letters and Sounds.

Word
sounds
spellings
Notes
the
/th/ /schwa/ or /ee/,
depending on context
[ th ] [ e ]

and
/a/ /n/ /d/
[ a ] [ n ] [ d ]

a
/a/ /ae/ or /schwa/,
depending on context
[ a ]
/ae/ is the sound you hear in 'rain', 'say' and 'made'.
to
/t/ /oo/
[ t ] [ o ]

said
/s/ /e/ /d/
[ s ] [ ai ] [d ]
[ ai ] is a very infrequently encountered spelling of the sound /e/ in a very commonly encountered word.
in
/i/ /n/
[ i ] [n ]

he
/h/ /ee/
[ h ] [ e ]

I
/ie/ (as in 'tie')
[ i ]

of
/o/ /v/
[ o ] [ f ]

it
/i/ /t/
[i ] [ t ]

was
/w/ /o/ /z/
[ w ] [ a ] [ s ]
The spelling [ a ] representing the sound /o/ is a frequent pattern in words following the sound /w/.
you
/y/ /oo/
[ y ] [ ou ]

they
/th/ (voiced) /ae/
[ th ] [ey ]

on
/o/ /n/
[ o ] [n ]

she
/sh/ /ee/
[ sh ] [ e ]

is
/i/ /z/
[ i ] [ s ]

for
/f/ /or/
[ f ] [ or ]

at
/a/ /t/
[ a ] [ t ]

his
/h/ /i/ /z/
[ h ] [ i ] [ s ]

but
/b/ /u/ /t/
[ b ] [ u  ] [ t ]

that
/th/ (voiced) /a/ /t/
[ th ] [ a ] [ t ]

with
/w/ /i/ /th/ (voiced)
[ w ] [ i ] [ th ]

all
/or/ /l/
[ a ] [ ll ]

we
/w/ /ee/
[ w ] [ e ]

can
/k/ /a/ /n/
[ c ] [ a ] [ n ]

are
/ar/
[ are ]

up
/u/ /p/
[ u ] [ p ]

had
/h/ /a/ /d/
[ h ] [ a ] [ d ]

my
/m/ /ie/ (as in 'tie')
[ m ] [ y ]

her
/h/ /er/
[ h ] [er ]

what
/w/ /o/ /t/
[ wh ] [ a ] [ t ]

there
/th/ (voiced) /air/
[ th ] [ ere ]

out
/ow/ /t/
[ ou ] [ t ]

this
/th/ (voiced) /i/ /s/
[ th ] [ i ] [ s ]

have
/h/ /a/ /v/
[ h ] [ a ] [ ve ]

went
/w/ /e/ /n/ /t/
[ w ] [ e ] [ n ] [ t ]

be
/b/ /ee/
[ b ] [ e ]

like
/l/ /ie/ (as in 'tie') /k/
[ l ] [ i-e ] [ k ]
Split spelling
some
/s/ /u/ /m/
[ s ] [ o ] [ me ]

so
/s/ /oe/ (as in 'toe')
[ s ] [ o ]

not
/n /o/ /t/
[ n ] [ o ] [ t ]

then
/th/ (voiced) /e/ /n/
[ th ] [ e ] [ n ]

were
/w/ /er/
[ w ] [ ere ]

go
/g /oe/ (as in 'toe')
[ g ] [ o ]

little
/l/ /i/ | /t/ /l/
[ l ] [ i ] | [ tt ] [le ]

as
/a/ /z/
[ a ] [ s ]

no
/n/ /oe/ (as in 'toe')
[ n ] [ o ]

mum
/m/ /u/ /m/
[ m ] [ u ] [ m ]

one
/w/ /o/ /n/
[ o ] [ ne ]

them
/th/ (voiced) /e/ /m/
[ th ] [ e ] [ m ]

do
/d/ /oo/
[ d ] [ o ]

me
/m/ /e/
[ m ] [ e ]

down
/d/ /ow/ /n/
[ d ] [ ow ] [ n ]

dad
/d/ /a/ /d/
[ d ] [ a ] [ d ]

big
/b/ /i/ /g/
[ b ] [ i ] [ g ]

when
/w/ /e/ /n/
[ wh ] [ e ] [ n ]

It’s
/i/ /t/’ /s/
[ i ] [ t ]’ [ s ]
Should be taught as a contraction of 'it is'.
see
/s/ /ee/
[ s ] [ ee ]

looked
/l/ /oo/ /k/ /t/
[ l ] [ oo] [ k ] [ ed ]
The [ oo ] can be pronounced as the /oo/ as in 'could' or as /oo/ in 'moon'.
don’t
/d/ /oe/ (as in 'toe') /n/’ /t/
[ d ] [ o ] [ n ]’[ t ]

come
/k/ /u/ /m/
[ c ] [ o ] [ me ]

will
/w/ /i/ /l/
[ w ] [ i ] [ ll ]

into
/i/ /n/ | /t/ /oo/
[ i ] [ n ] | [ t ] [ o ]

back
/b/ /a/ /k/
[ b ] [ a ] [ ck ]

from
/f/ /r/ /o/ /m/
[ f ] [ r ] [ o ] [ m ]

children
/ch/ /i/ /l/ | /d/ /r/ /schwa/ or /e/ /n/
[ ch ] [ i ] [ l ] | [ d ] [ r ] [ e ] [ n ]

him
/h/ /i/ /m/
[ h ] [ i ] [ m ]

Mr (mister)
/m/ /i/ /s/ | /t/ /schwa/
[ m ] [ i ] [ s ] | [ t ] [ er ]

get
/g/ /e/ /t/
[ g ] [ e ] [ t ]

just
/j/ /u/ /s/ /t/
[ j ] [ u ] [ s ] [ t ]

now
/n/ /ow/
[ n ] [ ow ]

came
/k/ /ae/ /me/
[ c ] [ a-e ] [ m ]
Split spelling. /ae/ is the sound you hear in 'rain', 'say' and 'made'.
oh
/oe/ (as in 'toe')
[ wh ] [ a ] [ t ]

about
/schwa/ | /b/ /ow/ /t/
[ a ] | [ b ] [ ou ] [ t ]

got
/g/ /o/ /t/
[ g ] [ o ] [ t ]

their
/th/ (voiced) /air/
[ th ] [ eir ]

people
/p/ /ee/ | /p/ /l/
[ p ] [ eo ] [ p ] [ le ]

your
/y/ /or/
[ y ] [ or ]

put
/p/ /u/ /t/
[ p ] [ u ] [ t ]
Depending on accent, the [ u ] can be pronounced as the
/ ʊ / as in ‘could’ or as /u/ in ‘but’
could
/c/ /u/ /d/
[ k ] [ oul ] [ d]
The [ oul ] is pronounced as the
/ ʊ / as in ‘bush’
house
/h/ /ow/ /s/
[ h ] [ ou ] [ se ]

old
/oe/ /l/ /d/
[ o ] [ l ] [ d ]
əʊ
too
/t/ /oo/
[ t ] [ oo ]

by
/b/ /ie/ (as in 'tie')
[ b ] [ y ]

day
/d/ /ae/
[ d ] [ ay ]
/ae/ is the sound you hear in 'rain', 'say' and 'made'.
made
/m/ /ae/ /d/
[ m ] [ a-e ] [ d ]
Split spelling. /ae/ is the sound you hear in 'rain', 'say' and 'bake'.
time
/t/ /ie/ (as in 'tie') /m/
[ t ] [ i-e ] [ m ]
Split spelling
I’m
/ie/ (as in 'tie') /m/
[ I ]’ [ m ]
Should be taught as a contraction of ‘I am’.
if
/i/ /f/
[ i ] [ f ]

help
/h/ /e/ /l/ /p/
[ h ] [ e ] [ l ] [ p ]

Mrs
/m/ /i/ | /s/ /schwa/ /z/
[ m ] [ i ] [ ss ] [ u ]
[ s ] or [ m ] [ i ] [ss ] 
[ i ] [ s ]
The schwa sounds something like an /i/ or an /uh/, depending on accent.
called
/k/ /or/ /l/ /d/
[ c ] [ a ] [ ll ] [ ed ]

here
/h/ /eer/ or /h/ /ee/ |/schwa/
[ h ] [ere ] or [ h ] [ e ] | [ re ]
The way we say this word very much depends on accent.
off
/o/ /f/
[ o ] [ ff ]

asked
/ar/ /s/ k/ /t/ or /a/ /s/ /k/ /t/
[ a ] [ s ] [ k ] [ ed ]

saw
/s/ /or/
[ s ] [ aw ]

make
/m/ /ae/ /k/
[ m [ a-e ] [ k ]
Split spelling. /ae/ is the sound you hear in 'rain', 'say' and 'made'.
an
/a/ /n/
[ a ] [n ]


*sounds are indicated in forward slashes; spellings are indicated by [ ] brackets. Polysyllabic words are split with a |.

As I’ve made clear before, out of this list of a hundred words, thirty-two are very straightforward to teach. These are:

  2 and VCC        6   in VC            10 it VC                 14 on VC
18 at VC              20 but CVC        21 that CVC         22 with CVC
25 can CVC         27 up VC           28 had CVC          34 this CVC
36 went CVCC    41 not CVC       42 then CVC         48 mum CVC
50 them CVC      54 dad CVC       55 big CVC           56 when CVC
57 it’s VCC         64 will CVC        66 back CVC        67 from CCVC
69 him CVC        71 get CVC        72 just CVCC       77 got CVC
91 if VC               92 help CVCC    96 off VC            100 an VC.

All the rest should be sorted according to sound and taught as spelling alternatives of those sounds. For example, the words 'they', 'day', 'made' and 'make' can be taught as spelling alternatives of the sound /ae/: [ ey ], [ ay ], or [ a-e ].

Why does this make sense? Because all children absorb the sounds of their own language naturally and teaching children anything they learn naturally, i.e. without having to be taught it, is a waste of time – theirs and the teacher’s. What children do need teaching is the writing script because no infant illiterate learns how the sounds of the language relate to the ways in which those sounds are spelled.


The only really difficult word to teach in this list is the word 'one', where, in modern pronunciation, it sounds like /w/ /o/ /n/. This word was once said as 'ane' and, while the way we say it has changed, the spelling remains similar. How should you teach it? It’s probably a good idea to teach it as a word pupils need to remember, because teaching the spelling [ o ] as two sounds /w/ and /o/ is probably more complicated, although children certainly don’t seem to have a problem recognising that the spelling [ x ] represent the sounds /k/ and /s/. Furthermore, 'Mr' and 'Mrs' are abbreviations and can be taught as indicated. 

Of course, it goes without saying that no high quality phonics programme will have the slightest difficulty in teaching any of the above words - or any words for that matter! 

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