middle school age student and tutor looking over words in a book

Sight Words
Done Right

Once children have learned all their alphabets, colors, names of various household items, and their favorite cereal type, it’s about time that they learn how to form simple sentences and convey their thoughts meaningfully.

You might ask yourself, what is it that distinguishes a meaningful sentence from a mere cluster of words that somehow communicate what needs to be said? The answer - a beautifully structured sentence that makes complete sense and features a proper arrangement of verbs, adjectives, nouns, and pronouns, along with accurate grammar.

However, a child’s journey to perfection and accuracy does not begin with such ideals but actually with a very crude understanding of the language. One might expect that the first step would be to begin with joining alphabets and learning phonetics. To many parents’ surprise, the first step is learning how to ‘sight’ words. Before you teach alphabets and how to make words using them, it’s more important to help the child understand – what is the purpose of alphabets? What are words? What do reading and writing even mean? What are some examples of words?

Sight words activities answer precisely these questions. They also teach the child some commonly used words in the English language and how to use them in sentences. These activities are also great for making the child understand the meaning of words like ‘a’, ‘the’, ‘of’, ‘this’, ‘that’, etc. Since these words don’t have a defined dictionary meaning, using them in sentences is the best way to infer their meanings.

Another problem that is often associated with teaching these words to young children is that they do not have a concrete image that accompanies them. How does one draw ‘a’, ‘an’, ‘of’, and ‘the’? We are not able to picture them, and as such, the method that must be followed for these words is that these should be memorized and understood.

Given how frequently these words are encountered, children need to be able to read, recognize, and understand them on the dot, upon seeing them. What this does is that by easily recognizing these words, kids are more likely to approach their text with a lot more confidence. They are eventually able to read with more fluency, better comprehend the meaning of the text, and make it less likely for them to get tripped over by such words in their reading.

Why Kids Should Befriend Sight Words At An Early Age

The reason sight words should be taught early, as and when the child is ready for this next part in grammar, is because they appear so frequently and make up a significant amount of all text. This is why educators recommend that children should be able to immediately spot these words so that their time and efforts can be spent decoding other, tougher words in that text.

If students face difficulty with sight words, it is more than likely that they will be frustrated and less interested in decoding other words in the text, like those that follow a certain rule or have complex spellings. Having a stockpile of sight words ready, helps children read better and become more confident in the language so that it can be readily deployed in the service of reading.

There happens to be a handful (about 100) of words that make up more than fifty-percent of text that young children begin to read. These are words like ‘a’, ‘I’, ‘or’, ‘and’, ‘the’, ‘but’, ‘then’ and so on. These are usually small and easily spotted, but the spelling of these words is usually not straightforward in regards to how they sound.

When children enter kindergarten, they are most often introduced to a sight word list and are asked to memorize the words shown so that they can spot them when they see one. The number of words can alter depending on the syllabus and the learning pace of the child.

1. Pop-up frequently in a text.

2. Are not accompanied by pictures to give them more meaning, for example: ‘the’, ‘or’, ‘and’, ‘so’, ‘a’, ‘but’ etc.

3. Often do not follow the typical rules of spelling, making them stand out from other words because these are not phonetically regular, meaning that their sounds do not parallel their spellings.

4. Are helping words in the language and are mostly adjectives, adverbs, pronouns, prepositions,conjunctions, and some common verbs. They give direction and cohesiveness to the language.

The reason these are called Sight Words is that these words appear so frequently that early readers reach a point where they no longer need to sound out these words. They recognize them by sight. Mastering a sight word means children skip having to blend its letter-sounds together, or think about spelling rules.Building up a huge stock of sight words helps them become eloquent readers.

Types of Sight Words

Sight words fall into two categories:

  • Frequently Used Words — Words that occur repeatedly in the English language, such as it, can, will, shall, a, but, did, each, for, had, in, etc. . Retaining these words makes reading much easier and helps it proceed more smoothly because the child is already familiar with most of the words and can focus her efforts on new words.
  • Non-Phonetic Words — Words that cannot be interpreted phonetically, such as buy, talk, or come. Memorizing these words that don’t follow the phonetic way of spelling them and irregular pronunciations teaches not only these words but also helps the child get more familiar with similar words, like guy, walk, or some.

When Should A Child Start Learning Sight Words?

Before a child explores sight words, it is important that he/she is able to recognize and name all the letters of the alphabet. When prompted with a letter, he/she should be able to name the letter in a quick and confident manner.

If a student’s knowledge of letter names is still wobbly, it is advised to spend time practicing this skill, before jumping into sight words.Having a firm foundation in the ability to quickly spot and name the letters will make teaching sight words easier and more meaningful to the child, also promoting retention.

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How to Teach Sight Words to Children

The best way to engage young readers is to make sight word learning fun and direct. Playing games, using sight words coloring worksheets, and hands-on clay activities will help children master skills in a playful manner.

Sight words coloring pages are an especially useful tool for learning sight words easily because it allows children to spot and color, making the experience fun and helping them revise it at a later point in time. This is achieved by keeping the worksheet aside, and reviewing it a week later, helping kids repeat what they did, and memorizing the words effectively.

Children follow the color key and color in the pictures by sight words. These words follow the new and review sight words from those they are familiar with already. Once children start enjoying learning these words, they’ll be able to read through most children’s books easily which will then motivate them to progress even more speedily. This is because once they realize that they can read effortlessly and sound sharp, these very sight words will begin to seem liberating, instead of an obstruction.

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12 week program updated March 29, 2021

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