The goal of reading is to be able to read quickly and smoothly with good comprehension.
Beginning readers pause frequently as they read, stopping to sound out each letter they see. While this is appropriate when children first learn to read, stopping to sound out each letter of every word is cumbersome and makes reading a chore.
Stopping to sound out each word also interferes with comprehension. Rather than being able to focus on the meaning of the words, a child must put all of his energy into sounding out each word, letter by letter. When children are able to read words quickly and focus on the meaning of each word, reading becomes a comfortable and enjoyable activity.
The importance of sight words
Sight words are just what their name implies - words that a child can read “on sight” without having to sound out each letter. Sight words are typically those that break the rules of phonics and cannot be read by sounding out the letters or those words that are written frequently.
A growing sight word vocabulary contributes to comfortable reading since it allows a reader to quickly read entire words without sounding them out. When a child can read words quickly, he can maintain a smooth pace and focus on the meaning of the words being read.
Tips for introducing sight words
The easiest way to introduce your child to sight words is through sight word flashcards.
These sight word flashcards are based on the list of Dolch sight words, which is a nationally recognized list of words children need to know to be able to read quickly and comfortably. The worksheets include all Dolch pre-primer (preschool) and primer (kindergarten) sight words.
A few simple tips will help your child quickly and easily learn the sight words.
Introduce three sight words at a time. Begin with the first sheet of Dolch pre-primer (preschool) sight words and choose three words. Show your child one flashcard at a time, saying the word clearly and asking your child to repeat the word after you. Put the first flashcard face down and repeat the process with the second and third flashcards.
As you review each word, remind your child to try to remember what the word looks like. I would tell my kindergarten students to “tuck the word in their brain.” This phrase helped the children understand the concept of committing something to memory.
Get physical. Another way to reinforce new sight words is to teach your child a verbal cheer for each word. Start by labeling each letter as “high” (b, d, f, h, k, l, t and all uppercase letters), “medium” (a, c, e, i, m, n, o, r, s, u, v, w, x and z) or “low” (g, j, p, q and y).
Say aloud the sight word and then say the name of each letter in the word to create the cheer. Direct your child to reach above his head for “high” letters, put his hands on his hips for the “medium” letters, and put his arms down at his sides for the “low” letters. Repeat the cheer several times until your child can join you in saying the names of the letters while he looks at the flashcard and moves.
Using body movements while learning the sight words will bring the words to life and add another dimension to learning. Rather than just seeing the word and saying it aloud, your child can “feel” the word as he moves his body.
Customize the cards. As you introduce each sight word, draw an outline in red around the entire word on the flashcard, highlighting the shape of the word. Since sight words are visual in nature, the red box gives children another way to visualize the word and remember how it looks.
Keep it fun. Although learning sight words requires memorization, you can play simple games with the cards that will help make this learning fun.
For example, spread the cards face down on a table and let your child pick one card at a time by saying, “Eeeny, meeny, miney, mo. I’ll pick a card that I know!” Direct your child to pick the last card he touches as he reaches the end of the rhyme. Playful elements such as the silly rhyme and allowing your child to pick his own card will help keep your child engaged and having fun.
Create your own sight word flashcards. Each family has different words that may be common or important. Ask your child for sight word suggestions such as a family member’s name, a favorite food, or a favorite store. Use the blank flashcards included with the sight word flashcards to make personalized sight word flashcards for your child.
Track your child’s progress. As your child learns additional sight words, punch a hole in the top corner of each mastered flashcard and keep them on a loose-leaf ring (found at office supply stores). Your child will be able to see his progress as he accumulates flashcards and the ring will also keep the cards from getting lost. My kindergarten students used to delight in toting around their rings of sight word flashcards, stopping to show other teachers and their parents the assortment of words they could read.