Why You Should be Teaching Sight Words to Your Young Children

What are sight words and when should you start teaching sight words to your kids? 

Sight words are commonly used words in the English language that cannot be sounded out with standard phonics rules or words that are used so often that they should have instant recognition without having to sound out each letter.

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There are many debates about whether the whole word approach or phonics is better for teaching reading to kids. The best strategy is to use a combination of both approaches.

Nothing illustrates just how complicated the English language is more than teaching reading. As a tutor, I am constantly struck by just how complex our language is; there are always exceptions to every rule. Just when a child seems to grasp something – wham you throw in a curve ball.

Examples of Sight Words That Don’t Fit Basic Phonics Rules: 

All

For

Is

One

Said

That

The

Was

What

Who

Examples of Sight Words Kids Should Instantly Identify: 

A

And

Go

Little

To

About

Can

Have

Me

Up

After

Come

If

Not

We

An

From

In

Run

You

More than half of the most common words in the English language can be considered sight words (depending on what list you’re looking at). One of the most popular sight word lists is the Dolch Sight Words List. Developed by Edward William Dolch in 1948, the list includes 220 words often categorized by age group; this is probably the most widely used list. 

Why is teaching sight words a good idea?

  • Teaching sight words is important so your children don't get frustrated when they try to apply the phonics rules they've learned to no avail. They should learn that these are the exceptions to the rules.
  • Learning sight words early on can give your kids an advantage when they start reading. It will give them self confidence and a feeling of success when they can easily recognize words before actually learning the ins and outs of learning how to read.
  • Automatically recognizing sight words helps improve reading fluency. It can be detrimental to reading comprehension to slow down and try to sound out each and every word.
  • There are no picture associations for some words. You can show a child an apple for the letter A sound, but what picture could you show to illustrate words like 'was' or 'for'?

Repetition is very important when teaching sight words; the goal is to make identifying these common words automatic. Some successful teaching methods can include:

  • Flash cards
  • Guided reading
  • Sight word games - there are many games available to help kids learn these commonly used words.
  • Reading books that include many of the sight words. Reading the sight words in context is important so kids learn comprehension. Memorizing words without understanding their meaning has no real value.

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