Heart Words: the secret sauce to irregular words

Heart Words: The secret Sauce to Tricky words!

Hands up if you have been sent home with a list of words for your little reader to memorize?! The anxiety and frustration builds as maybe your readers aren’t “getting it”, they don’t want to do it (because it’s hard and BORING), and then you’re asking yourself… What if something is wrong?! Are they behind?

Well, I’ve got a GREAT solution for you, and it makes WAY more sense and is much more enjoyable for everyone! 

Did you know that only 4% of words are truly irregular? 96% of words are decodable and do NOT need to be memorized. 

Here’s the biggest misconception: Kids need to memorize words in order to read. WRONG! High frequency words and sight words do NOT need to be memorized. 

Exciting news right?! But now you’re like whaaaat?! That’s right. 96% of words are decodable! Heart words are the secret sauce to helping our kids with those tricky, irregular words like: said, some, the, was, should…and more (I’ll explain!). 

High frequency words VS Sight words: 

Just a quick note (a wee bit boring clarification): What are high frequency words? What are Sight words?

High frequency words are words that appear often in texts. 

Sight words are words that have already been learned and are now recognizable by sight.

Why is memorizing a problem? 

  1. Memorizing is hard work. It can take 6-12 exposures (or more!) for a child to memorize a single word.
  2. Just memorizing the shape of a single word is not transferable to any other words.


Heart Words a words where some of the word is decodable (can be sounded out) and part of it has an irregular sound that needs to be learned by heart. Many kids have been required to read a certain amount of words by the end of Kindergarten/Grade 1/Grade 2, etc.


Let’s look at an example. If we are teaching the word what we would explain to our kids that the letters wh and t do what we would expect them to do. Here, children can tap into their knowledge of phonemes (sounds). These letters follow regular spelling rules and the sounds for these letters are /wh/ and /t/. The middle sound /a/ sounds like /u/. I explain it in video on TikTok HERE.

Another example is the word “said”. The sounds /s/ and /d/ follow their regular pattern. The /ai/ sounds like /e/ so we need to remember that part of the word by heart. MUCH easier than asking kids to remember the whole word without rhyme or reason. Check out. my video on TikTok HERE


We want our little ones to feel empowered by the knowledge they acquire as we teach high frequency words. By teaching the concept of Heart Words we are using phonics based instruction to give them the tools and clues they need to know and understand these words. Our children develop confidence in reading and spelling when they know the rules! When kids know the letter to sound relationship within a word they can learn it by heart. 

I would love to know what you think! Make sure to grab the freebie below and let me know how it goes!!

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