What are sight words?Sight words are words that students learn through memorisation. Often high-frequency words, students learn these words by sight – when you show a student a sight word, they should be able to read it back to you quickly, almost instantly. There are two main kinds of sight words:
- Irregular words/Non-Phonetic Words— While words like ‘cat’ can be decoded phonetically (C-A-T), many words cannot be broken down in this way. For example, words such as you, of, buy, talk, or come cannot be decoded phonetically. These words need to be recognised automatically through memorisation.
- High-Frequency Words— Common words that are found regularly in the English language are known as high-frequency words e.g. like, go, and it. These words can be decoded, but the reading process will be smoother and more fluent if students can read them on sight.
Benefits of Learning Sight WordsAs Literacy Online states: “It’s essential for young readers and writers to develop a sight vocabulary, that is, a store of words that they recognise automatically.” Knowing common, or high frequency, words by sight makes reading easier and faster, because:
- The reader does not need to stop to try and sound out each individual word, letter by letter.
- Learning certain kinds of sight words enables children to devote their energy to decoding words that are more difficult.
- Sight words are confidence boosters.
- Having a store of sight words also helps learners to acquire further sight words.
- Proper fluency correlates with higher rates of comprehension.
Learning Sight WordsThe best way to learn sight words is through lots and lots of repetition, in the form of sight word games and activities. The last thing you want to do is bore your students with rote learning of sight words. That’s where fun sight word activities come in! Research shows that it is best to:
- Introduce new sight words in isolation (i.e. the sight word by itself).
- Immediately follow this with repeated exposures to the same sight words in books and other text materials.
- Increase exposure through sight word games and activities.
Six Fun Sight Word Activities for New ReadersWe have selected six fun sight word activities that you could easily introduce to your classroom or home!
1. Sight Word ChalkGive students coloured chalk and their list of sight words (around five sight words is a good number at one time). Your class will enjoy writing their sight words on the pavements outside your classroom. This is also a fun activity to do at home. Some days our driveway is filled with sight word chalk! Are you feeling really adventurous with sight word chalk at home? Get your kids to try sight word chalk on the trampoline mat, or use special bath chalk on the sides of your bath while they are having a wash!
2. Sight Word PaintingChannel your students’ inner artist with sight word painting – all you need is paints, paint brushes, paper, and of course, sight words! Try painting the whole sight word in one colour, and as an extension, each letter of the sight word in a different paint colour.
3. Play Dough Sight WordsThis activity is great as a hands-on sight word activity. There is a multitude of fun sight word activities you can do with playdough. My two favourites are:
- Forming each of the sight words, letter by letter, with rolled up play dough.
- Rolling out some play dough and writing a sight word with a toothpick.