What are sight words? They are words that cannot be decoded using conventional strategies so children need to memorize them until they are known by sight. You might think that these words are so common that kids would just learn them organically through reading and other everyday print. But many of the words also defy standard phonetic conventions, meaning they are impossible to sound out. They are often also difficult to illustrate, so children can’t use illustrations in picture books to make a deeper connection to these words. For example, can you illustrate “is” or “it?”
On the flip side, the wonderful thing about these words being so common is that children learn them easily with repetition because they are usually words that they already have in their everyday vocabulary.
Working hard to learn these words by sight (memorizing) pays off. It allows kids to free up cognitive resources so they can focus on the tougher words that require strong decoding skills. They are also able to understand the majority of the text if those decoding skills fail. There is more to why sight words are important than just simply the mechanics of reading; they are also fantastic confidence boosters. One of my educational philosophies is to build children’s confidence up and then present an attainable challenge. Sight-word knowledge provides a scaffold of understanding and confidence for new readers who need to use all the other tools in their tool box to complete the job at hand: reading with understanding.
Here a few fun activities on web sites that help support learning at home. Have fun with these words!