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Why are sight words important?

It is important to know words by sight because readers are able to spend less time on automatic word recognition and more time on understanding the text.

What words are important to know by sight?

High-frequency words - or words that occur most often in literature - are important to know by sight very early in a reader's "reading life." Fry and Dolch spent time learning which words readers encounter most while they read (or which words writer use most often). The result was a long list of words readers and writers need to learn early in their literacy education. Learning these words will enable a reader to read them without so much as a second thought providing cognitive energy for comprehension of the text.

Strategy to Employ

Many of these words break rules (such as of, been, come, find, etc.) so it is important to employ memory techniques for students. They say it takes approximately 34 times of reading the word in order to commit it to memory! Here is our strategy for ensuring that readers know the word and see it multiple times:

  1. Read the word list to them (which is 5 words per week).

  2. Read the word list together (I encourage readers to whisper if they are not confident).

  3. Use the words in a sentence to provide some context, pointing to the word when it's read.

  4. Ask the student to write the word in a sentence, mimicking me by pointing at the word as they use it.

  5. Ask the student to practice reading the words - more than once - (in their own sentences) to themselves, asking for help when they need it.

  6. When they're ready they read the words out loud to me. (This is when I fix errors and we practice some more.)

That's already (at least) seven times of hearing, seeing and using it in one ten-minute session. During the week I provide literature that contains the word (rhymes, riddles, poetry, pyramid sentences, songs, etc.) where they are able to read it multiple times in context. I provide fun ways to write the word, study the word, learn the meaning of the word, and play with the word. By the end of the week, I hope that the reader can confidently read the word without any prompting or implementing word identification strategies what-so-ever!

That is knowing the word by sight and that is a reading teacher's goal so that more time can be dedicated to the understanding of what they're reading! That statement pretty much sums up why sight words are so vitally important to a quality reading program.


If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me! My job is to help you find success in your classroom by personalizing education to meet your learner's unique needs.

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