Sight Words 101

The term sight words will become a part of your pre-kindergartener - third grader's vocabulary as you see lists of words coming home that have directions stating the lists should be memorized. Or the words may be part of the spelling test for the week. We will explore why these words are important and ways to make memorizing them fun!

The most common definion for sight words is the 200-300 words that are most commonly used in books, newspapers, and magazines. These are words that usually do not follow general phonics rules or cannot be represented by visual representation. Sight words account for 50-75% of words that you encounter as you read. In learning them, it gives a child a big head start in learning to read.

Reading different types of text, some simple and some more challenging, is expected by the end of second grade. One way of ensuring the beginning reading skills are in place is to learn sight words. The only way to learn sight words is by memorization.

Teachers usually send home words from one of two different lists: the Dolch Sight Word List or the Fry's Sight Word List. The difference between the two lists is minor. The Dolch List if divided by grade level, in decreasing order of frequency. The Fry List is divided by hundreds in order of frequency. Either list will ensure your child learns the most common words of the English language.

Here are some fun ways to engage your child in memorizing sight words:
  • Sight Word Throw! Write ten sight words on index cards. Scatter the cards on the floor. Throw a bean bag on one of the cards. If the child can read and/or spell the word on the card, they get to keep the card. Continue until all cards are gone.
  • Let's Go Fishing for Sight Words! Choose ten sight words. Write the sight words on index cards. Place a magnet on one side of the index card. Give the child a fishing pole (a longer stick with a string attached and a magnet at the end is ideal). Let the child "fish" for a card by letting the pole magnet attract to the index card magnet. The child gets to keep the card if he can read and/or spell the word on the card. Make it a game and do it with a friend. Whoever gets the most cards wins!
  • Exercise with Sight Words! Learn to spell sight words by putting each letter in a word to a movement. For example, use the word "what." As your child says each letter, have your child clap simultaneously. Get creative with your movements!
Enjoy your adventure into sight words!