October 17, 2017

Why Sight Words?

Sight words.  You've probably heard of them.  You may roll your eyes at them.  Your child might even know many of them.  But what is the purpose of sight words, and WHY do we have to make our kiddos memorize them?

Sight Words are words that show up most frequently in print.  Some examples are:  the, said, here, for, are, of, was.  We encourage readers to memorize sight words because they encounter them all the time!  

Let's say your new reader was reading these sentences:

The blue underlined words are sight words.  If your new reader did not know the, is, and, upon seeing them, think how much longer it would take her to read these four sentences!

When a reader can recognize and say a sight word upon seeing it, she will improve in fluency, and she will be less frustrated as an early reader.  

If Little Miss were reading the above word sentences and was stuck on is, I would make sure to say, "That's a sight word."  If she were stuck on the word, Pam, I would say, "That's a sounding out word."  In the first 10 BOB Books that my child will read,  I highlight all of the sight words yellow.

Another reason to teach these words as sight words is because some of them are irregular, and many follow a vowel pattern that won't be taught until much further into the reading sequence.  Let's look at the word was.  If a child were to sound out was, it would sound like wass.  We save the child a lot of grief by having her memorize that was says /wuz/.

Ever wonder why everyone doesn't use the same list of sight words?  There are two main lists that sight words come from, they are the Dolch Basic Sight Vocabulary, and Fry's Instant Words.  Many teachers come up with their own lists, combining the two.  Here is the Sight Words List 1 that I use. How did I come up with my list?  Well let me tell you.  I considered the words on the Dolch and Fry lists, and then I chose the words that I used most as I created resources for teaching my beginning readers.  Color words, number words, and names can also be sight words.  

Did you know you don't have to wait until your child is ready to read to introduce sight words?  Sight words can be introduced when a child is still learning letter sounds.  When I taught preschool, we would work on a new sight word every couple of weeks.  By the end of the year, I had students who weren't sounding out words yet, but they knew over 15 sight words!  

It is best to only introduce a few sight words at a time, and to make sure they don't look similar (don't introduce saw and was at the same time, that's just asking for it!) 

This is what introducing a sight word could look like:   

First I would have a dialogue like this:  "This sight word says are.  Say it with me, are.  A-r-e spells are.   This sight word says see.  Say it with me, see.  S-e-e spells see.  Point to are.  Point to see.  What is this?  (see)  What is this?"  (are)  

Next I would use sight word pages from my reading packets.  We would also spend some time playing games to review sight words already introduced in past lessons. 

Hopefully sight words don't cause you, or your child to panic.  In fact, sight word instruction can be really fun!  How do you make sight word practice more fun?  You might enjoy this post:  6 Simple Ways to Practice Sight Words

Sight word pages are found in each of my Help a Child to Read packets in my TpT Store.

Short a CVC Words
CVC Words Bundle

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