What are sight words?
Sight words are words that your child should be able to recognize, read in context, and write by memory. They are important to learn as most of them are not decodable. (You can’t sound them out.) Words categorized as sight words are commonly used in the English language. As I tell my students, they are EVERYWHERE!
Well, then- what is a trick word? A snap word? A star word? A high frequency word?
Here is the thing- although there may be some slight differences in definition- they are all essentially the same- words that should be memorized by sight. Some programs refer to them using different names. In the word study program I currently use, “Trick Words” are listed as sight words that you cannot sound out. (Think words like ‘the’ ‘she’ ‘my’ ‘there’) However, on many word lists, there are words you can sound out (think words like ‘get’ ‘him’), although you should still encourage your child to learn them by sight.
There are also several ways to organize sight words. You may have heard of Fry’s Sight Word Lists or the Dolch Sight Word List. Although there are some differences, many words overlap between the two.
How can I get my child to learn them?
For most children, the first step is learning to identify the sight word in isolation. Once your child can do that, you would want to see that she is recognizing the word in context while reading. The last step for most children is being able to spell the word independently in her writing.
Flashcards can work wonders for sight words, but you shouldn’t stop there. By now, we know that people learn through all different modalities. Some children benefit greatly from learning little songs to help memorize these words (see my IGTV for an example). Other children may benefit from doing something more tactile and hands-on. Wikistix, magnetic letters, and magnadoodles are all excellent tools to help your child learn sight words. You can even get outside and encourage your child to bounce a basketball while spelling his/her words.
Once your child is able to recognize these words in isolation, try to write phrases with sight words or go looking for them in a book. Sight word readers are terrific once your child is ready. Remember, less is more! Try to focus on a few words each week rather than a pile of 100 words at a time.
Here is a great activity board of ideas for practicing trick words.