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Irregular Words

Decoding words using phonics enables children to read words fluently and correctly spell words. However, not all words can be decoded; irregular words need to be automatically identified. These words are phonetically irregular as they do not follow the phonic or spelling “rules”. Interestingly approximately 25% of the most frequently used words in children’s books are irregular.

Guidelines for Teaching an Irregular Word

Sharon Vaughn and Sylvia Linan-Thompson wrote a book called Research-Based Methods of Reading Instruction for Grades K -3, which provide the following guidelines when teaching irregular words:

  1. Teach irregular words that a student will encounter regularly.
  2. The number of words to teach in each session will vary depending upon the student.
  3. Teach the irregular words prior to reading them.
  4. Review those words on a daily basis.
  5. Provide your child with opportunities to use the newly taught words (i.e. writing and reading).

Irregular Word – Beginner Readers

Vaughn and Linan-Thompson provided a list of 30 irregular words for beginner readers. Since these irregular words do not have a letter-sound relationship, they will need to be learned as whole words. A child will need to automatically recogize them and memorize how to spell these words.

the you said his people
to they were do know
was would are some your
of there because as mother
is one what could who
two too should put whose

Most of these irregular words are also sight words or high frequency words – they are commonly found in printed material. All of the above words are included on Dolch’s sight word list with the exception of the following: should, whose, people & mother. Dolch intentionally excluded nouns from his sight word list.

Irregular Words – Common Words

Similiar to the beginner reader irregular words, these common words do not follow regular spelling or phonics rules.

a again answer any been
both brought cold color come
does earth enough example eyes
father find four friend from
give great have kind learn
listen live many most move
off often old on once
only other their though through
want water where word work

Learning to read and spell correctly is a lengthy process that can be approached in many different ways. Every child progresses differently so what may work well with one child may not for another.

Source: Fry, E.B., Ph.D. & Kress, J.E., Ed.D. (2006). The Reading Teacher’s Book of Lists 5th Edition. Sanfransico, CA: Jossey Bass.

Rath, L.K., Ed.D & Kennedy, L. (2004). The Between the Lions Book for Parents. New York, NY: Harper Collins.

3 comments… add one
  • Great for my daughter!!!!!!

  • Great article and great advice! Thank you!

  • Hi,

    Thanks for the advice and courage, I was now losing hope. My son has a serious problem with spelling but I think your suggestions are going to help.



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