Your kids is fluent in phonics, they can read CVC (consonant-vowel-consonant) words, they are able to converse in English, but why haven’t they read a book yet? I had the same question a couple years ago until I found an interesting answer : sight words. Apparently, when it comes to read in English, there are some words called sight words that cannot be decoded, other than to memorize it. Once I knew this important secret, I immediately taught my son sight words when he was in kindergarten and just that’s it, he started to read simple sentences several days afterwards.
What Is a Sight Word?
Sight words are words that do not follow the rules of spelling or syllable, simply to put these words cannot be decoded using phonics method. These sight words have to be recognized instantly by sight without sounding them out. A lot of sight words are tricky to read and spell so there is no other way than to memorize them.
However, worry not, these sight words like it, is, and the are often appear in a story or passage that as kids frequently reading in English, their brains would easily store up these words in their heads. When kids have mastered sight words, they no longer need to pause to spell out or blend letter-sounds, they will read automatically without spelling rules.
Dolch’s Sight Words
There are some different methods (or we call it sets) to memorize sight words, but the most used set is Dolch’s Sight Words. Dr. Edward William Dolch developed the list in the 1937 by studying the most frequently occurring words in children’s books of that era. The list contains 315 sight words and they are divided into categories based on grade level, ranging from pre-kindergarten to third grade, not to forget the high-frequency nouns. Below you can download the Dolch’s sight words for pre-kindergarten and kindergarten level (click on the image).
How to Teach the Sight Words?
- Introduce the Word : Say it and Repeat
I am using flash cards with clear fonts and ONLY the word, no picture. Every week, I will introduce new 8 words to my son, but 4 sight words for one session. You can download the flashcards here.
- Mix and Build
Give your child magnetic letters or you can make your own alphabets piece of paper, and ask them to build the words that are introduced that week. I would recommend to do this activity one word at a time.
- Missing Letter
I like the game ‘what is missing’ where I take out one letter from a sight word and let my son guess what letter it is. You could have many sessions with this activity.
- Write and Retrieve
Have your child write the word on a paper by looking at an example word. Afterwards, dictate the word and make them write again without looking at the examples.
- Begin with words that are easy to spell out : am, an, to, is, and others.
- Do not teach a new sight word until they have mastered the old one.
After mastering sight words, is that enough? In fact, there is another challenge : high-frequency words. But hey, one step at a time, okay? Let me cover the high-frequency words in another post. Until then!