The 'What, Why and How' of Sight Words and a FREEBIE!

The development of sight word recognition continues to be a priority when instructing emerging and beginning readers, so... what are they?  Sight words (often called high-frequency words) are the words that are used most often in reading and writing.  They are called 'sight' words because the goal is for young readers to recognize these words instantly, at first sight.

Students sitting at a table building sight words

Why are Sight Words Important?

Sight words are important to master because they account for up to 75% of the words used in children’s printed material. There are different sight words for every grade level. Each set of words builds upon the other, meaning that once children learn sight words in Kindergarten, they will be expected to retain those words whilst learning new words in first grade, and so on.
Many of the 200+ sight words do not follow the basic phonics principles, thus they cannot be sounded out. Beginning readers need an effective strategy for decoding unknown words, and becoming familiar with sight words is an effective method.

Recognizing sight words helps to:
  • Promote confidence. Because the first 100 sight words represent over 50% of English text, a student who has mastered the list of sight words can already recognize at least half of a sentence. If a student begins to read a book and can already recognize many of the words, chances are they won’t feel discouraged and put the book down, but have more confidence to read it all the way through.
  • Promote reading comprehension. When a student opens a book for the first time, instead of trying to decipher what ALL of the words mean, attention can be focused on unfamiliar words. At least half of the words will be known on sight, so focusing on the other half helps strengthen understanding of the text.
  • Provide context. If students are familiar with sight words, they may be able to work out the meaning of the sentence or paragraph by reading the words they are already familiar with. And, if a picture accompanies the text, they may also be able to determine what the story is about, coming away with a few new words and increased motivation!

How to Practice Sight Words

Practice and repetition are key!  The more opportunities students have to become familiar with sight words, the better.  Lists and flashcards are often used, but you can also find lots fun, engaging activities just by having a quick peek on Pinterest!

I'm not going to reinvent the wheel here, as there are lots of blog posts with fantastic hands-on activities for learning sight words. Many are ideal to help your child with homework, whilst building their confidence for classroom activities.

If students are engaged and motivated, they will be ready to move on to written tasks enabling them to further practice, review and develop their word recognition.

Recently, I had a request from a first grade teacher to develop a 'practice and review' format for her students.  I created a pack which contains the 41 Dolch first grade words, but for formatting purposes, 4 nouns were added, rounding the content to a total of 45 words.  The format has 2 practice pages for each word.  After 5 sight words, there is a 2-page fun review.  The first page of the review is a word search and the second checks for understanding and spelling.  I have tried to include as many skills as possible to engage young learners, and hope that the practice contained within, helps students feel comfortable with the challenges presented in daily reading practice.

Here's a little peek:

Preview of Dolch Sight Words Practice and Review Worksheets for first grade

Cover Image of Dolch First Grade Sight Words Practice and Review Worksheet Pack

You can grab a free sample of this pack, by clicking on the image below.  Enjoy!

Cover Image of Dolch First Grade Sight Words Practice and Review Free Resource

Other Dolch Sight Word Resources you may be interested in:

Fountas and Pinnell Sight Word Resources you may be interested in:

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