What Are Sight Words and Why Are They Important?
Like many families this week, your children are heading back to the classroom and coming home with a worksheet or two of homework. (Make that dozens of worksheets for your older kids!) The homework that caught my eye this week is the list of “sight words.” What are sight words? Sight words (high-frequency words, core words or even popcorn words) are the words that are used most often in reading and writing. According to Teach Stix:
In classrooms across America, the development of sight word recognition continues to be a top priority when instructing emerging and beginning readers.
They are called “sight” words because the goal is for your child to recognize these words instantly, at first sight.
Why are Sight Words Important?
Sight words are very important for your child to master because, believe it or not, “sight words account for up to 75% of the words used in beginning children’s printed material”, according to Study to Identify High-Frequency Words in Printed Materials, by D.J. Kear & M.A. Gladhart. There are different sight words for every grade level. Each set of words builds upon the other, meaning that once your child learns the sight words in Kindergarten, he will be expected to still recognize those words as he learns new words in first grade, and so forth.
Many of the over 200 “sight words” do not follow the basic phonics principles, thus they cannot be “sounded out.” Beginning readers need an effective strategy for decoding unknown words, and being familiar with sight words is an effective method. Other benefits of sight words include:
- Sight words promote confidence. Because the first 100 sight words represent over 50% of English text, a child who has mastered the list of sight words can already recognize at least half of a sentence. If your child begins to read a book and can already recognize the words, chances are he won’t feel discouraged and put the book down, rather he’ll have more confidence to read it all the way through. And, choose another!
- Sight words help promote reading comprehension. When your child opens her book for the first time, instead of trying to decipher what ALL of the words mean, she can shift her attention to focus on those words she is not familiar with. She will already know at least half of the words, so focusing on the other half helps strengthen her understanding of the text.
- Sight words provide clues to the context of the text. If your child is familiar with the sight words, she may be able to decode the meaning of the paragraph or sentence by reading the sight words. And, if a picture accompanies the text, your child may be able to determine what the story is about and come away with a few new words under her belt.
How to Practice Sight Words
You will want to become familiar with all of the sight words for each grade. Both the Dolch List of Basic Sight Words and Fry’s 300 Instant Sight Words, each of which can be downloaded from the Literacy and Information Communication System (LINCS) website. The key to mastering the list of sight words? Practice and repeat! The more opportunity your child has to become familiar with these words, the better. Of course, you’ll see sight words come home in the homework folder, or you may even be asked by the teacher to use flashcards, but there are many FUN activities and games that you can do together to help promote learning of the sight words.
Educational website, Ed Helper has an extensive collection of printables and worksheets designed to help kids conquer their list of sight words. Even Pinterest has jumped aboard with creative ideas to help your child work on sight words. There is an entire Pinterest site dedicated to sight word activities for your kids! Think Skittles, snowballs, chalkboards…the choices are endless! Take a look!
Sight words help your child build a foundation for reading comprehension and fluency. How about using online tools to help perfect those words? Most kids will welcome the chance to “play” online, even if it is educational. Our new Bitsboard app is a great way to target certain sounds and sight words in an engaging way. Enjoy!