The ability of a child to recognize words commonly found in print are critical for learning how to read. Sight words are those words that people recognize automatically, without having to phonetically decode, or sound out, the word. Even prior to formal reading or phonics instruction many children are able to “read” or recognize words that they have seen in everyday life: words such as the names of restaurants, words on food labels, or words seen on the television screen to which they have had repeated exposure. Sight words are commonly words for which there is no picture to associate the word, such as “because” or “of.”
Edward William Dolch, Ph.D. created a list of 220 high-frequency words, excluding nouns, which are commonly referred to as the Dolch word list. When his book, “Problems in Reading” was published in 1948, these were words most commonly found in the reading programs. The list is still used today in early reading programs and the words are divided by grade level. According to K12 Reader, mastery of the words found on the Dolch word lists gives a child the ability to recognize 75% of words in children’s reading material, emphasizing the importance of sight word recognition.
There are a variety of activities that teachers and parents can do with their children in order to learn sight words. Repetition of seeing the word is key to learning this skill so daily practice should be integrated into the home or school routine. Flashcards are a great way to practice sight word recognition. Simply showing the child the word while saying the word and having them repeat the word can help build a sight word vocabulary. Games are a fun way for children to learn sight words, especially if they receive a small token or even just positive reinforcement for their best efforts. Blank bingo cards can be printed off of the internet and filled in with sight words that the child has been practicing. With a duplicate set of flashcards you can create a game of concentration where students have to find matching pairs of words that are face-down or can be used for a game of “Go Fish”. Downloading and printing sight word booklets, like these from Hubbard’s Cupboard will not only reinforce sight word recognition but by putting them together and coloring the booklets students are able to also work on fine motor skills and following directions. Cloze activities are also useful when teaching sight words. Creating a word wall or a board where sight word cards are displayed can also be helpful when practicing mastery of sight words. With sentence strips and a pocket chart, students can put together their own sentences or find the correct sight word card to fill in a space.