3 Things You Probably Don’t Know About Sight Words

Do you have a child at home working on learning sight words? 

Do you wonder how to help your child learn sight words?

Are you bored with the same old activities?

If you answered YES to any of the questions above, then this post is for you! I’m going to share 3 things you probably don’t know about sight words!

1. Sight words and high-frequency words are not the same, even though people often think they are 

High-frequency words are the words that appear most frequently in our language. These are words like “the, of, is.”  One common source for sight words are the Fry sight word lists. Fry broke down the first 1,000 words in our language into lists of 100 words.  Sometimes high-frequency words become sight words. I have heard high-frequency words called many things! 

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Sight words are words that a student can read by sight, very quickly and automatically. They just know them. A sight word usually doesn’t follow the spelling rules and is not decodable. I have heard them called many things! Sight words are sometimes called trick words, popcorn words, rule breakers, red words, power words and more! I’d love to hear from you! Comment on this post and let me know what your child calls these words. 

2. Most children need a multisensory approach to learn sight words.

Often in school children are expected to memorize sight words. For some readers, this just isn’t enough. They need a multi-sensory approach. This means that you need to practice them in a variety of ways to see what will work best for your child. 

Here are a few ways to practice sight words:

  • Mnemonics- a trick to help them remember the word 
  • Art- connect the word to a picture 
  • Use your senses- trace words with your finger as you say the letters, use shaving cream or sand, etc. 
  • Word Walls 
  • Letter tiles
  • Window markers
  • Sky Write – pretend to write the word very big in the air.

If you need more ideas let me know in a comment below. 

3. There’s no such thing as sight words.

Wait what?

What if I told you there’s no such thing as sight words?

I’m not even sure if I believe it! But while I was at a training last fall I attended a session with The Dyslexia Institute where they talked a lot about the idea of sight words. Check out their book Dyslexia and Spelling – Making Sense of it All by Kelli Sandman-Hurley Ed.D. 

When words seem to be spelled in an unusual way we often explain it by saying that English is just crazy! Or that these words are rule-breakers.

Instead, we need to discuss the meaning and research the history of a word to give us a better understanding of where that word comes from and what it means. This process is called Word Inquiry. A great resource for this is etymonline.com.

One example I shared on my live stream last week is the word two. If you start to brainstorm words that are related to two the reason for the “w” becomes clear. Words like “twin, twice, twenty, and between” help us to see why we have a “w” in the word two.  I’m still learning about this approach and how to use word inquiry with my students.

That’s it! What did you find surprising? How are you studying sight words with your children at home?

Here are a few links to check out if you’re interested in learning more. A quick Youtube search and you’ll find dozens of videos!

http://www.wordworkskingston.com/WordWorks/Structured_Word_Inquiry.html

https://www.understood.org/en/learning-thinking-differences/child-learning-disabilities/dyslexia/12-tips-to-help-kids-with-dyslexia-learn-sight-words

About the Author Ashley DiMercurio

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