Teaching irregular words

what we know, what we don't know, and where we can go from here

Danielle Colenbrander*, Hua Chen Wang, Tara Arrow, Anne Castles

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

1 Citation (Scopus)
5 Downloads (Pure)


Instruction in regular letter-sound relationships is a key element of teaching children to read. However, in the English language, many words have irregular spellings (e.g. said, are, yacht). What is the best way to help children learn to read these words? To date, a number of different viewpoints have been put forward, but these viewpoints are seldom directly compared, and there is very little empirical evidence to adjudicate between them. Therefore, in this review, we outline the theoretical arguments for and against different methods of instruction, and synthesise the empirical research that does exist. We make recommendations for practice, and outline key areas where further evidence is required.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)97-104
Number of pages8
JournalEducational and Developmental Psychologist
Issue number2
Early online date4 Jun 2020
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020


  • irregular words
  • reading instruction
  • reading
  • primary school

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