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Common Exception Words

What are common exception words?

Common exception words are words that do not fit usual spelling patterns. They are everyday words that children will frequently come across but that do not adhere to the usual grapheme/phoneme correspondences they have been taught about. It's important to teach these words separately so that children have a chance to become accustomed to them.

The National Curriculum for England gives examples of common exception words that children should learn during each year at primary school. Children should be taught these words along the usual spelling patterns.

Common exception words - spelling

How to teach common exception words

There are lots of fun spelling activities you can do to make teaching common exception words a bit more exciting than just writing them out time and time again! Sometimes, using different types of mnemonics can help children remember particularly tricky words. For example:

  • BECAUSE: Big Elephants Cause Accidents Under Smaller Elephants.
  • RHYTHM: Rhythm Has Your Two Hips Moving

Why not challenge children to come up with their own mnemonics for words they are finding difficult to remember?

You can also try things like giving them letter tiles or Scrabble pieces and challenging them to put the letters in the correct order. Or giving them a set of common exception words they that have to put into the silliest sentence they can make!

Common Exception Words Year 1

Here are the common exception words for Year 1:

the, a, do, to, today, of, said, says, are, were, was, is, his, has, I, you, your, they, be, he, me, she, we, no, go, so, by, my, here, there, where, love, come, some, one, once, ask, friend, school, put, push, pull, full, house, our

Common Exception Words Year 2

Here are the common exception words for Year 2:

door, floor, poor, because, find, kind, mind, behind, child, children*, wild, climb, most, only, both, old, cold, gold, hold, told, every, everybody, even, great, break, steak, pretty, beautiful, after, fast, last, past, father, class, grass, pass, plant, path, bath, hour, move, prove, improve, sure, sugar, eye, could, should, would, who, whole, any, many, clothes, busy, people, water, again, half, money, Mr, Mrs, parents, Christmas

Note: ‘children’ is not an exception to what has been taught so far but is included because of its relationship with ‘child’.

Common Exception Words Year 3 and Year 4

By the time children get to KS2, there is a longer list of common exception words that should be taught across the phase group (Year 3 and Year 4) instead of per year.

Here are the common exception words for Year 3 and Year 4:

accident(ally), actual(ly), address, answer, appear, arrive, believe, bicycle, breath, breathe, build, busy/business, calendar, caught, centre, century, certain, circle, complete, consider, continue, decide, describe, different, difficult, disappear, early, earth, eight/eighth, enough, exercise, experience, experiment, extreme, famous, favourite, February, forward(s), fruit, grammar, group, guard, guide, heard heart, height, history, imagine, increase, important, interest, island, knowledge, learn, length, library, material, medicine, mention, minute, natural, naughty, notice, occasion(ally), often, opposite, ordinary, particular, peculiar, perhaps, popular, position, possess(ion), possible, potatoes, pressure, probably, promise, purpose, quarter, question, recent, regular, reign, remember, sentence, separate, special, straight, strange, strength, suppose, surprise, therefore, though/although, thought, through, various, weight, woman/women

Common Exception Words Year 5 and Year 6

Here are the common exception words for Year 5 and Year 6:

accommodate, accompany, according, achieve, aggressive, amateur, ancient, apparent, appreciate, attached, available, average, awkward, bargain, bruise, category, cemetery, committee, communicate, community, competition, conscience*, conscious*, controversy, convenience, correspond, criticise (critic + ise), curiosity, definite, desperate, determined, develop, dictionary, disastrous, embarrass, environment, equip (–ped, –ment), especially, exaggerate, excellent, existence, explanation, familiar, foreign, forty, frequently, government, guarantee, harass, hindrance, identity, immediate(ly), individual, interfere, interrupt, language, leisure, lightning, marvellous, mischievous, muscle, necessary, neighbour, nuisance, occupy, occur, opportunity, parliament, persuade, physical, prejudice, privilege, profession, programme, pronunciation, queue, recognise, recommend, relevant, restaurant, rhyme, rhythm, sacrifice, secretary, shoulder, signature, sincere(ly), soldier, stomach, sufficient, suggest, symbol, system, temperature, thorough, twelfth, variety, vegetable, vehicle, yacht


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