Teaching Sight Words – Effective Strategies For Reading Success

Sight word acquisition is an important building block in the construction of a child’s ability to read. Once she is able to read all of the words on Dolch’s lists for example, she has access to up to 75% of what is printed in almost any piece of children’s literature. How exactly do teachers and parents help children develop their stores of sight words?There are several proven techniques that any adult can use to teach sight words. Whichever strategies are employed, the best success is seen when one adult with a small number of children at a time. The more one-on-one time a child has learning and practicing sight words with an adult, the greater his chances to integrating them into his long-term memory.

Teaching Sight Words With Pictures

Many learners think in pictures. Whether we realize it or not, we often visualize what we are attempting to learn to help solidify the information in our memories. Think about the last time you needed to get somewhere you hadn’t been before. Even if you used written directions instead of a pictorial map, you probably had a number of visual markers such as unusual sights or signs to help you learn how to get there. Presenting children with illustrations of sight words along with their print versions helps them make important connections between the object and the word. Flashcards or posters with a colorful picture and the word written under it are excellent sight word teaching tools. In addition, teachers or parents can have children draw their own pictures of each word on the same page to help them link the print with the visual.

Listening to and Saying Sight Words

Sight words are not only frequently used in writing, they are also essential to conversational English. Because most of the  Dolch sight words are already in children’s verbal vocabularies , learning to read them is simply a matter of connecting the print word to the oral version in their prior knowledge banks. Parents and teachers should make explicit connections between the print version of a word and its sound. Pointing to a word while repeating it is one way to do this. Also, adults should have children say the sight words to help them become actively involved in their learning. This can be as simple as asking them to repeat a sight word while writing it or as involved as having the child search through a pile of sight words written on index cards or sentence strips to find a word that best completes a sentence you have written.

Teaching Sight Words Through Repetition

Children do not learn new words by being exposed to them only once. Repetition is key to sight word acquisition. Young readers should be given opportunities to read and write a new sight word multiple times. Repetitive reading of texts featuring certain sight words is one strategy for helping children commit these words to memory. Also, to practice spelling sight words, parents and teachers can have children write and say aloud words several times. When a child writes and says the word at least five times in a row, she is more likely to commit it to memory. To subtly help children mentally repeat sight words, parents or teachers can create Dolch word walls. As a new sight word is learned it is written in large print on a sentence strip or piece of paper and hung up on the wall in a location where the child is likely to see it often. Not only will repetitive glancing at the word reinforce it in the child’s memory, it is also easily accessible for the parent or teacher to refer to when talking with the child about it.

Sight Words in Context

When children see words used in natural ways rather than in isolation they are more likely to remember them because they develop an understanding of the word’s significance and meaning. Literature based instruction is an extremely effective method for helping children learn sight words. There are many leveled texts that are designed to highlight certain age-appropriate sight words. Beyond this parents and teachers can present sight words in short sentences or help them write their own sentences incorporating sight words.

Teaching Sight Words Through Music

Music is a wonderful medium for presenting and reinforcing information especially for young children. Think of how much easier it is to remember the lyrics to a song you haven’t heard for years than to remember what you had for dinner last night. Creating songs that incorporate sight words and practicing them frequently with children gives them the opportunity to use multiple modalities to learn the new words. A teacher has created a series of “replacement lyrics” for common songs including “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”and “Old McDonald Had a Farm”that feature a number of sight words. Fortunately for us, she has posted her creations on the Internet

Teaching Sight Words With Games

Once children have had the opportunity to study new sight words, games are a fun, hands on way to help strengthen their retention. These games are easy to create at home or at school and can be modified based on the particular sight words a child is learning at the time.

  • Wordo—Played just like the game Bingo, but this version uses sight words instead of numbers on a grid card.
  • Concentration—Sight word concentration cards can easily be made using index cards. Simply write each word on two cards, shuffle and lay face down to play.
  • Word Searches—Create word searches featuring sight words or use one of the many available on the Internet.
  • Go Fish—Go fish cards can easily be made using index cards. Simply write each word on two cards, shuffle and deal to play.
  • Letter Magnet Spelling—To reinforce sight word spelling, provide the child with a set of letter magnets and a metal surface. Call out sight words and ask the child to use the magnets to spell the word.

Have fun teaching sight words! Be sure to visit our worksheets page for lots of free, printable Dolch sight words activities.