Heart Words for Kindergarten Kids (Lists & Tips)

Teaching young learners how to read and write is a journey filled with many milestones, one of which includes the introduction of “heart words.”

These special words play a crucial role in the literacy development of kindergarten children.

Unlike regular sight words, which can be sounded out phonetically, heart words are those that children need to learn by heart because they often don’t follow the usual rules of phonics.

This article explores the concept of heart words, why they are important, and how they help young learners become proficient readers.

What are Heart Words?

Heart words are commonly used words that kindergarten children are encouraged to memorize as a whole because they contain elements that do not adhere to standard phonetic patterns.

These words are essential for young readers as they frequently appear in texts, and knowing them by heart can significantly enhance reading fluency and comprehension.

For example, the word “the” is considered a heart word because it doesn’t follow the typical phonetic rules that apply to other words like “cat” or “dog.”

Instead of sounding out “t-h-e,” children are taught to recognize and know this word by heart, allowing them to read more smoothly and with greater confidence.

Heart words often include high-frequency words such as “said,” “come,” “was,” and “where,” which appear so often in written English that recognizing them quickly becomes crucial.

By focusing on these heart words, teachers can provide children with the tools needed to navigate the early challenges of reading, building a solid foundation for more complex literacy skills in the future.

Related Huge list of “Wh” Words for Kindergarten Kids with Tips!

List of Heart Words for Kindergarten Kids

Here’s a list of commonly taught heart words for kindergarten students.

These words are often selected because they appear frequently in text and may not conform strictly to phonetic rules, making them ideal candidates for memorization:

  • the
  • of
  • to
  • and
  • a
  • in
  • is
  • it
  • you
  • that
  • he
  • was
  • for
  • on
  • are
  • as
  • with
  • his
  • they
  • I
  • at
  • be
  • this
  • have
  • from
  • or
  • one
  • had
  • by
  • word
  • but
  • not
  • what
  • all
  • were
  • we
  • when
  • your
  • can
  • said
  • there
  • use
  • an
  • each
  • which
  • she
  • do
  • how
  • their
  • if

These heart words are essential for building a foundation in reading.

Knowing them by heart helps children to read more fluently, allowing them to focus on the meaning of texts rather than on decoding every single word.

Heart Words vs Flash Words

The distinction between “heart words” and “flash words” in the context of early literacy instruction is based on the approach to learning each type of word, and each plays a unique role in helping children develop reading skills.

Heart Words

Heart words are words that children are encouraged to memorize as whole units because they often contain phonetic irregularities, meaning they do not follow the usual rules of phonics.

These are words that children need to know “by heart” because sounding them out using typical phonetic strategies might not work.

For example, words like “said,” “are,” and “was” do not follow straightforward phonetic rules, making them hard for beginners to decode.

The focus is on sight recognition, which aids in fluency and reading comprehension since these words frequently appear in text.

Flash Words

Flash words, often called “flashcards words,” are typically used in the context of flashcards where children rapidly see and then recognize words.

These can include both phonetically regular words, which adhere to common phonetic rules, and irregular words like heart words.

The main purpose of flash words is to increase a child’s speed and accuracy in recognizing words, whether they are phonetically decodable or not.

Flashcards are used as a practice tool to enhance quick recall, helping to build both fluency and vocabulary.


Learning Approach: Heart words are primarily learned through memorization and frequent exposure due to their phonetic irregularity. In contrast, flash words can be both regular and irregular words that are practiced for quick recognition, often with the help of flashcards.

Purpose: The primary purpose of heart words is to ensure children can instantly recognize words that appear frequently in text but are hard to decode phonetically. Flash words focus more broadly on building a rapid recognition of a wide array of words to support reading fluency.

Tools Used: While heart words are often integrated into all aspects of reading instruction, flash words are specifically associated with the use of flashcards or similar rapid-recall exercises.

By understanding the differences between these types of words, educators can more effectively tailor their teaching strategies to support the development of essential reading skills in early learners.

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