Sight words are words that appear very often in written texts. They often do not follow basic phonics rules, and may also be difficult to represent with pictures or drawings, as they are not nouns (people, places or things). Some examples of sight words are “service” words such as “the”, “a”, “am”, “I”, “she”, “they”, “where” and so on.
If you have heard of CVC words as well, you may be wondering about the difference between CVC and sight words. CVC words are simple one-syllable words that follow basic phonics rules, so your child can read them by putting together the sounds of each letter in the word. (You can refer to our earlier blog article on CVC words here.) Sight words, on the other hand, should be memorised as “whole words”, such that when your child sees a sight word, he/she can instantly recognise and read it, without having to painstakingly sound each letter out. Once they are able to do so, they will read much more fluently, since sight words appear with such high frequency.
The Dolch List The Dolch List is a list of high frequency sight words compiled by educator Dr Edward William Dolch in the 1930s and 40s. While there are other sight word lists such as the Fry’s Sight Words List, we chose to use the Dolch word list in our Early Learning Programme because they were compiled from children’s text (and hence are words that children are most likely to encounter), and are separated into different “levels”. So for example, children in K1 can start with the Pre-Primer set of 40 words, then move on to the primer set of 52 words at K2.
Do’s & Don’ts in teaching sight words If you are intending to teach your child sight words, the following information may come in handy!
1) Point out the direction of how we read For children who tend to read in reverse, it is good to constantly remind them that we read from left to right. You can do so by sliding your finger across each word from left to right.
2) Keep a checklist of the words the child knows and doesn’t
If you use flash cards, you can flash through the whole set and create two stacks - one for words that the child already knows and another for those that he/she doesn’t know yet. You can then record the words not known yet so you know which ones you have to focus more on. Flash the cards regularly, focusing on one set until your child has mastered all. It will also help to put what they have learnt into practice by getting them to use the words to form sentences!
3) Teach in fun and creative ways Helping your child have fun while learning can make the process much easier! You can use other learning resources to aid in memorisation, such as foam/plastic letters for spelling. We have also appended more suggestions below (under Activities/Games) and also in our YouTube video here. In addition, if you purchase our Sight Words Flash Cards (we have an earlier blog article on them here too!), you will get a list of suggested activities as well.
1) Don’t expect your child to recognise all the words in just a few sessions
Patience is key! Set realistic goals on how many words you want your child to recognise within a certain time period. We recommend introducing AT MOST 3 words per session, and do ensure the child has mastered the words before adding on more new ones. If you are teaching multiple children at once, do not compare the number of sight words that various children recognise - every child has their own pace!
2) Do not introduce all the sight words at once The Dolch List consists of 5 sets of words, with each set made for various grade levels. Do start with pre-primer, followed by primer, and the other sets accordingly. Also, don’t forget that revision is very important to keep the words fresh in your child’s memory!
3) Don’t put similar-looking words together Most children will have difficulty distinguishing similar-looking words, especially when they are just starting to learn them. When teaching more than one new word, pick those that look very different (are spelt very differently) from one another. When flashing a set, ensure that similar looking words (eg. on, no) are separated too.
1) I Spy Lay a selection of cards on the table and give hints for a target word you want the child to find. For example, you can say, “I spy with my eyes...a word that starts with the /s/ sound.”
2) Memory Game Start with a set of 5 cards. Place them face up on the table. Read each word aloud, then flip the cards face down. Call out a word for the child to try to pick the right one from memory.
3) Building Sentences Choose a new word you want to emphasise. Arrange other words around it such that when read in sequence, it forms different sentences. Point at each word in sequence and ask the child to read them one by one until they have read a complete sentence.
4) Whole Body Card Game Paste a selection of cards on a wall while the child stands at the other end of the room. Call out a word. The child has to run to the wall, pick the correct card and run back to the starting point. Lastly, remember that learning sight words is really important as it provides a good foundation for reading! If you’re trying out the above activities with your child, feel free to tag us on our social media platforms as well! :)