Jelly and Bean

100 Words


100 Words

In 2005 Dr Jonathan Solity and his team identified 100 words which make up 53% of the written words in children’s and adult’s reading books. These very frequently occurring words come from the database of over 850,000 words found in these books.

These 100 words are:

a, about, after, all, am, an, and, are, as, at, away

back, be, because, big, but, by

call, came, can, come, could

did, do, down

for, from

get, go, got

had, has, have, he, her, here, him, his

I, in, into, is, it

last, like, little, live, look

made, make, me, my

new, next, not, now

of, off, old, on, once, one, other, our, out, over

put

saw, said, see, she, so, some

take, that, the, their, them, then, there, they, this, three, time, to, today, too, two

up, us

very

was, we, were, went, what, when, will, with

you

16 of the above 100 words make up 25% of all the written words in the books.

These are:

a, and, he, I, in, is, it, my, of, that, the, then, to, was, went, with

In 2007 Letters and Sounds was published by the Department for Education.

They also published a list of 100 words for children to learn during the Reception Year and Year 1 followed by a list of the next 200 frequently occurring words in children’s literature.

82 of the words on Dr Solity’s list were included. The 18 words not included are:

‘after, am, away, because, did, has, last, live, new, next, other, our, over, take, three, today, two, us’.

These particular words are all on the list of the next 200 words in Letters and Sounds. Only the word ‘today’ is not included on either of the Letters and Sounds lists.

The 18 words on the Letters and Sounds list of 100 words not included in Dr Solity’s list are:

‘asked, children, dad, day, don’t, help, house, if, I’m, it’s, just, looked, Mr, Mrs, mum, no, oh, people, your’.

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Given the fact that these 100 words make up over 50% of written words in children’s literature, it is very important that children learn to recognise them fairly quickly.

The first thing we notice about these 100 words is that they are almost all connecting words or verbs. They are not open to illustrations. There are no names of objects among them that can be depicted by a picture on paper or on screen.

When we analyse these words for the parts they play in spoken language, we realise that only three of them are nouns in their most common use, and these are abstract nouns where nothing obvious can be drawn as an illustration. i.e. time, today, back.

Grammatical analysis of these 100 common words as parts of speech shows us that they are:

Articles:           a, an, the

Nouns:             time, today, back

Pronouns:        he, her, him, his, I, it, me, my, this, she, that, what, them, they, us, you, all, our, their

Verbs:               am, are, be, came, call, can, come, could, did, do, get, go, got, had, has, have, is, like, live, look,

                         made, make, put, saw, said, see, take, was, were, went, will

Adjectives:        big, little, new, old, last, next, over

Adverbs:           away, down, here, now, not, off, once, out, too, up, so, there, very, when

Prepositions:    about, after, by, at, for, in, from, into, of, on, to, with, up, over

Conjunctions:   and, as, because, but

Numbers:          one, two, three

Many of these words can be used as other parts of speech depending on their context within a sentence. e.g. ‘back’

  1. The camel has a hump on its back.  (noun)
  2. We went out of the back door.  (adjective)
  3. He walked back to the car.  (adverb)
  4. Will you back the car into the parking space?  (verb)

This leads us to the inevitable conclusion that the meaning of the words depends on the context in which they are used. Teaching children to read written words from lists, or in isolation from flash cards, by converting letters to sounds and blending them together when there is nothing to connect them to something that the children already know, can be a totally meaningless exercise.

It is the words around these 100 connecting words that give them their meaning, not the words themselves per se. This is why it is very important to teach children to read with real books containing pictures. It is the pictures of the meaningful situations that give children something to latch on to whilst they are trying to decipher the written words and learn their spellings and their sounds as well as their meanings.

Every page in our books contains a picture and some of these 100 connecting words. They are introduced slowly over the whole scheme. We begin with ‘a, on, in, and, the’ in our first books for Phonic Phase 2 and the pink book band. The order and place where we introduce each word for the first time can be found in our teaching guides.

An overall document showing the words and their introduction can be found here.

References:

  1. Dr Solity’s list       http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/4514106.stm  
  2. The official Letters and Sounds lists are on pages 194 and 195 of this document.  https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/190599/Letters_and_Sounds_-_DFES-00281-2007.pdf
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