Sunday, July 8, 2012

Sight Words

Recently, a couple of moms have asked me about sight words. So here you go... an informational post about sight words.

What are sight words?
Sight words are high frequency words (words that are used more than others in written language) and many cannot be sounded out phonetically. They are words that should be read "by sight," within a second of seeing it. For example, the words come, when, and they are among the first hundred sight words children should be able to read.

Why does a child need to learn sight words in order to learn how to read?
Being able to recognize and read sight words contributes to a reader's fluency (the rate, expression and tone of reading). If a child does not have a solid base of sight words, then reading will be difficult. Can you imagine stumbling over every single word in a sentence? That would be incredibly frustrating. If you knew the commonly used words, though, you could focus on decoding just the unfamiliar words in a sentence, thus making reading more fluent. There is also a connection between fluency and comprehension. If a child is focusing 100% of his attention on decoding every single word he reads, it is nearly impossible for him to think about what he is actually reading. 

Did you know...?

25 words make up approximately 1/3 of all of the words found in publications.
100 words make up approximately 1/2 of all of the words found in publications.
300 words make up approximately 65% of all of the words found in publications.

Dr. Suess's Green Eggs and Ham uses just 50 words. It is one of the first books that children can learn to read independently. 

Which sight words do should be introduced first?
If you search the web for sight words, you will find a variety of lists out there. Currently, most reading specialists and teachers use Fry's list of sight words. You will also find some sight word lists out there by Dolch, Fry's predecessor. Both lists are okay to follow, but Fry's list is the most recent and popular, so that is what I would recommend using. Print out Fry's list of the first 100 sight words and start working on them with your child today!

Introducing Sight Words:
The more your child sees a word, the more likely she will be to memorize it. I would not recommend "drilling" your child with flashcards, especially if she is pre-school aged. In a child's eyes, this task is tedious and there is no meaning found in the learning experience. ("Why am I being asked to read these cards again?!?!") Instead, try to create activities or tasks that are meaningful and, more importantly, a fun experience for your child. 
  • Print out a sight word on computer paper and have your child fill in the letters with stickers, mini pom-poms, paint dots, etc. She'll also be working on her fine motor skills. 
  • Label the toy baskets in your child's playroom. (trucks and cars, toys without a home, etc.). She will have to read these sight words every day when she cleans up her toys. 
  • As your child learns sight words, choose simple books for her to read that contain those words so she can practice reading them in an actual book. Reading A-Z is a good resource for this. There is a yearly subscription fee, but it is totally worth the money, especially if you homeschool your child. 
  • Make and play a sight word memory game. 
  • Post a new sight word on the refrigerator each day. Every time you open the fridge to get something out, ask your child to read the word. 
If you do a google search for sight word activities, you'll find mostly worksheets (blah!) that you can download, or activity ideas for teachers to use in the classroom. Many of these activities can be adapted for just one or two children for home use. This blog has some good ideas that I am looking forward to adapting for Big L and his story time co-op group.  

Have any more questions about sight words? Leave me a comment or send me a message thru Facebook

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