Soaring with Sight Words
Our school district identified the first key to college readiness is advanced reading in kindergarten through second grade. Teaching a child to read is critical to their success in school as well as in life .
Children need to develop skills that enable them to be a strong and confident reader. While there are many different approaches to teaching a child to read, sight word instruction combined with phonics has worked well with our children.
Benefits of Sight Word Instruction
Research-Based Methods of Reading Instruction devotes an entire chapter on phonics and word study. They state, “beginning readers need to be able to identify words automatically and have an effective strategy for decoding unknown words.”
Sight Words Promote Confidence
Confidence can be defined as trust or reliance in oneself. To possess self- assurance; to remove all doubts. The ability to identify sight words when reading a book provides a child with confidence in their ability to read. The 100 most frequently used words represents over 50% of all English text. When a child can easily recognize over half of a sentence, they typically possess the confidence to attempt to read it. Opening a book filled with many words can be overwhelming to a child. If a child can instantly recognize more than half, he is not overwhelmed but rather challenged. The French philosopher, Rene’ Descartes wrote “Cogito, ergo sum”, which translates into English as “I think, therefore I am.” While this pertains to the proof of one’s existence, I think it can be extended to a more inspirational mantra.
I think _____, therefore I am _____.
I think I can read, therefore I am a reader.
If a child possesses the cogito, ergo sum mantra about reading, they will likely become a strong, confident reader.
Sight Words Assist in the Decoding Process
When a child can open a book and recognize over half of the text, they can shift their focus to decoding the more challenging words. When a child needs to decode each word in a sentence, they become easily frustrated. In addition, they quickly lose the meaning of the text. The challenge shifts to the individual words and not on the sentence as a whole. As a result, the ability to recognize sight words improves reading comprehension.
Sights Words Pose Pronunciation Problems
Phonics’ strategies are not applicable to all words. Some words are phonetically irregular; they do not follow regular phonics or spelling rules. The English language has many of these words. In addition, our language is filled with many confusing homophones (words that sound the same but are spelled differently and have different meanings). A great example are the words two, to and too. These words are both phonetically irregular and homophones . A child needs to memorize how to read, spell and use these words. The following eleven words are examples of the more frequently used phonetically irregular sight words:
These phonetically irregular words are part of the list of 25 words that represent approximately one third of printed material. That’s right, a mere twenty-five words represent about one third of English text, almost half of which are phonetically irregular.
Sight Words Assist ESL Students
English as second language students can greatly benefit from learning sight words. ESL students are at an advantage if they can recognize sight words. Dr. Fry’s list represents the most common English words.
- The first 25 words represent approximate one third of printed material.
- The first 100 words represent approximately 50% of printed material.
- The first 300 words represent about 65% of printed material.
Sight Words are “Service” Words
Sight words include “service” words like articles, pronouns, prepositions, conjunctions and common verbs. Knowledge of these words greatly assists in understanding the meaning of a sentence. For example, the ability to quickly read and understand the meaning of the pronouns “I” and “you” is essential to comprehending many sentences.
Sources: Fry, E.B., Ph.D. & Kress, J.E., Ed.D. (2006). The Reading Teacher’s Book of Lists 5th Edition. Sanfransico, CA: Jossey Bass.
Vaugh, S & Linan-Thompson, S (2004). Research-Based Methods of Reading Instruction. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.