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:
- Teach irregular words that a student will encounter regularly.
- The number of words to teach in each session will vary depending upon the student.
- Teach the irregular words prior to reading them.
- Review those words on a daily basis.
- 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.
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.
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.