What Are Sight Words & Why Do They Matter?

What are sight words?
Sight words, or high frequency words as they’re often known, are vocabulary words that appear frequently in verbal and written communication – words such as the, come, to and where. Unfortunately for those learning to read, many of these words are irregularly spelt, making them difficult to sound out phonetically.

Why is it important to learn sight words?

As children read, if they stop to phonetically decode a word the flow of text is interrupted, and comprehension of what has been read can be lost as the reader’s focuses on the task of decoding. It is for this reason that most reading programs recommend that children develop the ability to recall high frequency words automatically or ‘on sight.’ Children with a good grasp of the most regularly used sight words are able to read more fluently which, in turn, supports good reading comprehension.

What are sight words and why do they matter?

What is the Dolch Sight Word List?
There are many different sets of sight words commonly used in schools and reading programs – the Dolch Word List, Fry’s Instant Words and the Magic 100 words are all very popular. The Dolch Word List is a list of common vocabulary developed by Edward William Dolch in 1936. Dolch sourced these words by studying the vocabulary of popular children’s books. These words are believed to represent between 50% and 75% of all vocabulary used at a grade school level.

How many words are in the Dolch Sight Word List?

The Dolch word list contains 220 non-nouns divided into five groups, and an associated list of 95 high frequency nouns. The non-nouns are divided into five levels of difficulty;

Pre-Primer – 40 words

Primer – 52 words

First grade – 41 words

Second grade – 46 words

Third grade – 41 words

How to teach sight words?
Typically, when children begin to learn to read sight words they start with small subsets or lists of 5-10 new words at a time, moving on to a new set of words once each previous set is mastered. Mastery generally involves lots of repetition, but it definitely does not have to be dull or boring! An average reader needs around 30 exposures to a word for recall to become automatic. Even a good reader needs around 20 exposures to each word. Exposing children to sight words in a variety of different ways and formats, both in context and in isolation, is it important to sight word mastery. There are many fun and interesting ways to expose a child repeatedly to a word without relying on flashcard drills.

Game playing is one of our favourite ways to develop sight word recall. Games are fun and engaging, and children often do not realize how much they are learning when they are having fun playing a game with a friend or family member.

You will find a great selection of printable sight word games in our Sight Words Games pack.

The pack provides 16 different games for revising sight words. They are suitable for home and school, working well as homework revision tasks and for small group work. As with all early learning, adding a touch of fun or playfulness to practice time can help to engage a child’s interest in the learning experience.

Sight words games pack