Sight words (also called Dolch words) are words that kids need to know "on sight," without having to sound them out, because
- knowing these basic words helps kids read and write similar/rhyming words
- they're so common that stopping to decode them every time is frustrating
- many of them do not follow the "rules" for sounding out words
Not all schools or districts use the exact same sight word lists, but our lists can be found here. Printable flash cards for lists A-E can be found here.
How can I help my child learn sight words?
- Find it first: When reading together, ask, “Hey, do you see the word the on this line?” Once s/he can do that well, move on to pointing to particular words and asking your child to name them.
- Out of Sight, Out of Mind! Post sight words inside your pantry, on the refrigerator, on the bathroom mirror, on the back of your seats in the car--anywhere your child will encounter them multiple times a day--and spend just a minute or two at a time practicing: "Can you poke the word for? Punch the word as? Flick the word my? Scratch the word he?" etc. Later, move on to having your child read the words to you.
- Storytime: When reading with your child, you could also pick one basic word (“the” or “you”) or one meaningful/repeated word in that particular story (such as “good” in Good Night, Moon) and teach it, pointing it out on the cover when it’s in large letters first. “This is the word ‘good.’ What letters spell ‘good’? …Right! G-O-O-D spells ‘good’!” Read the story as usual, but pause 2-3 times during the book to ask, “Hey, do you think we can find the word ‘good’ anywhere on this page?” Praise, high-five, etc. if your child can find it, and repeat: “That’s right, there it is! G-O-O-D spells good! Great reading!” Doing this a million times ruins the story, so don’t overdo it, unless your child decides s/he loves finding the word and wants to keep searching for it on every page.
- Mix it Up: Always be sure to practice sight words in any order, in different fonts (your handwriting, typed, in books, on signs) to make sure your child isn't just memorizing them in order on a list!
- Sight word games: Click here for a great list of sight word games your child can play online, and here for other fun ways to practice sight words. At school, we play a simple "game" with flash cards: get the word right, you keep the card. Get it wrong (or take more than 3 seconds to read it) and the teacher keeps it. We total up the student's points at the end, and then go through the ones s/he missed several times. Finally, we mix them all up and play a final round to shoot for 100%. You can also print up two of every flash card and play Memory/Concentration--just make sure your child reads each word aloud after flipping over the card!
- Sing It! We use simple tunes to help kids remember certain sight words: "The" goes to the tune of "Three Blind Mice," for example. Coming up with a little song or chant to spell out the word can help it stick!
- Mini Books: Another way to introduce and practice sight words is to use simple books like some of the printable ones at DLTK Teach or Hubbard's Cupboard. (Our students bring home books like these every week, but there are plenty more at these sites!) Print and color them with your child, then read them together. On the first reading, you might do something like this:
1) Read the first page, pointing your finger under each word as you read (you want the finger to “jump” from word to word, not slide across the page—this helps kids recognize that each word is separate.) “I like corn.” Tell your child, “This word, like, is on every page of this book! L-I-K-E spells like. Let’s look for it on the next page.”
2) Read the second page. “I like bread.” Ask your child, “Let’s see if we can find like on this page. Do you see L-I-K-E like?”
3) If your child wants to “read” a page or the book by themselves, let them have at it! Help him/her point under each word just like you did. At first, they're just reciting from memory, and that's okay!
4) Encourage your child to use the pictures to help them “read” each page whenever s/he is ready. Using picture clues is something good readers do! You might also model making the first sound of the word to help figure out what it is: “I like b-b-b…(look at the picture) Oh, bread! I like bread.”
“Thanksgiving” book (“like”)
Another “Thanksgiving” book (“can” and “see”)
“My Daddy” book (“my” and “Daddy”)
“My Mommy” book (“my” and “Mommy”)
“I Can Draw” book (“can”)
“Go Car Go!” book (“see” and “go”)
“My Body” book (“this,” “is,” and “my”)
*Caution: These printable sight word/early reader books are great for teaching, but not terribly exciting. Throw one in every once in a while, but keep reading good picture books together for most of your reading time, lest you AND your child become bored to tears!