Q: How many words should I teach per day? A: There is no set answer to the number of words to teach a child each day. Factors such as the child’s age, motivation, memory skills, and whether the child is learning a specific list for a school assignment affect this decision. But remember: it is much better for a child to have solid knowledge of 50 words than to kind of know 300 words. It is not enough for children to kind of know their sight words. They need to be able to recognize them instantly and accurately in order to build reading fluency and comprehension of written material they will read in books.
It is much better for a child to have solid knowledge of 50 words than to kind of know 300 words.
We recommend that you start by thoroughly teaching your child three to five words in a lesson. On the first day, introduce three to five new words. In the next day’s lesson, start by reviewing the previous day’s words. If your child remembers those words, move on to introducing three to five new words. If he struggles with, let’s say, two of the previous day’s words, go through our full sequence of teaching techniques with those two words and then introduce just one to three new words. If your child aces the review part of each lesson, then you can probably introduce more new words per day. If he repeatedly struggles to remember the previously covered words, then slow down the pace.
Q: When teaching sight words, should I use pictures together with written words? A: The research indicates that most typically developing children learn sight words better without accompanying pictures. However, children who have cognitive delays, such as Down syndrome, seem to benefit from sight words being accompanied by picture cards.
Q: Should I correct mistakes immediately, or wait until the end of the lesson or game? A: All errors should be corrected immediately. Please see our corrections procedure for instructions on how to correct mistakes in a positive, constructive way. It only takes a few seconds, so it won’t disrupt the flow of your lesson or game.
Q: What does it mean to “master” a sight word? A: A child should recognize the presented target word three times in a row for three days in a row. The child should be able to identify and say the word quickly, showing that they know the word by sight and do not have to sound it out letter-by-letter.
Q: My child is doing a great job with these activities! How much praise should I give her after each correct answer? A: Actually, very little. Gushing praise (“You are so smart,” a high five, “That’s wonderful!”) can be a major distraction to a young child with a short attention span. By the time you’ve finished praising her, she may have totally forgotten what she learned! Stick to a simple affirmation of a right answer (“Correct” or “That’s right”), and then continue with the activity. Similarly, if the child gives a wrong answer, point out the mistake and the correct answer in a simple, direct manner. You’re not being mean, you’re just staying focused! Q: What’s the best way to keep track of which sight words my child has mastered and which ones are still being studied? A simple way to organize the child’s sight words that have been mastered or on which the child is presently working is to use a 5″x8″ card file box with A-Z file dividers. Place a card marked CURRENT WORDS in the front of the box, and place another card marked MASTERED WORDS that will separate current words from mastered words. Then file mastered words alphabetically behind the A-Z file cards. The words currently being learned are best filed in random (non-alphabetical) order.
Q: My child enjoys the games a lot more than the lessons, so I’m tempted to just do the games. Is that okay? A: No. Our sight words games are excellent tools for reinforcing the knowledge your child has acquired from the lessons, but they are not a replacement for the sight words lessons. If a child gets bored or distracted easily, consider shortening the lessons (by covering fewer words), but do not eliminate them!
Q: Why are sight words sometimes called “service words”? A: Sight words actually service the reader by improving the child’s fluent, smooth reading of connected text in phrases, sentences, and paragraphs. Research has strongly shown that fluency in reading is a vital prerequisite for good reading comprehension. If the process of reading print is too slow and laborious, the reader’s comprehension of printed material will be seriously impeded.
Q: When is it developmentally appropriate to teach sight words? At what age are children ready to learn sight words? A: Children’s language skills develop at different rates, so we can’t give you hard-and-fast age rules. Most children will be able to master a few sight words in Pre-K (four years old). You can teach sight words earlier if your child is receptive to the material. But if your 2- or 3-year-old is uninterested and has difficulty retaining the words, then it’s probably too early, and you should wait a few months before trying again. A good goal, according to child literacy expert Timothy Shanahan, is that children should master 20 sight words by the end of Kindergarten and 100 sight words by the end of First Grade.
Q: Should I be teaching my child sight words instead of phonics? A: No! Sight words are a supplement to phonics instruction, not a substitute! Phonics teaches your child the rules for decoding and reading most words. Sight words instruction is a strategy of focusing extra attention on the words that occur most frequently, so that your child doesn’t have to stop and decode every single word.

38 Responses to “Sight Words FAQs”

  1. angelique

    i want to play bingo!

  2. Candi

    Is 80 sight words too much for kindergarten?

    ADMIN – Hi Candi,

    Doing 80 Sight Words for a kindergarten class is an ambitious goal, and more than most classes would do. It really depends on your kids. If they are getting them and they are enthusiastic about learning more, go for it!

    • Krystal L Anderson

      My daughter has to learn 150! Plus she is suppose to already know 75 sight words entering. As an early childhood educator this is WAY to much for a young child’s brain. If you child does not understand or catch on, this is by far too much for them.

      • Denisse

        As an early childhood educator myself, I feel so disheartened listening to my daughter’s teacher say that she is behind because she only knows 48 sight words out of 100 she is supposed to read at the end of Kindergarten. How is that developmentally appropriate? What schools impose upon our young children is beyond ridiculous. Not setting them up for success, but killing their love for literacy.

        • Tina

          I agree with you 100%. I’m not a educator, but my daughter,1st grade, came home with a list of 200 sight words to know by the end of the school year. What kills me is the teachers are too overwhelmed to help “certain“ students, and this really makes some students totally shut down, feeling inadequate or “ stupid”.

  3. Jessica

    My son just turn five years old and in pre-k, the school makes me feel he is so far behind he has mastered 20 of the 30 sight words they sent home. I was thinking he was doing great but now they sent home a list of frys 100 sight words and said he should know the first 50 before starting kindergarten or he will be farther behind and he should recognize his numbers 1-20 by now and to 30 before fall (he only know 1-10 but can count to 20) is his school asking to much or am I not pushing him hard enough. This is public school.

    ADMIN – Hi Jessica,

    A typical school program would be at around 100 words by the end of the first grade. But, more important than that number is what is suitable for your son. Children’s development windows open at different times and different rates. If he enjoys learning new words, and is able, I don’t think there is a problem in being a bit more aggressive. If he isn’t quite ready, I would have a conversation with your teacher about what a more appropriate program for him should look like.

    • Thewayiteach

      100 words for pre-k or mastering 50 is a kindergarten standard as well as writing and recognizing numbers to 20. Those are end of the year Common Core standards. Although, if a child is able to pick up and has already mastered those skills a teacher may have the child continue on in their learning progression although that should be communicated to the parent. Lately, we (I am a kinder teacher) we get too many pre-k kids who are ready for first grade and can skip kinder which makes me think not enough social skills and learning through play is happening. Further, too many teachers measure their success by how far they can push a child. My thought – spend more time with hands on activities and building a well rounded student rather than pushing them in isolated academic areas that create learning gaps.

      • Dani

        I see where you’re going with this, but I’m not sure I agree entirely. I do agree that play and free play are necessary, but I also think that learning academics at home also sets a precedent that follows the child through school – that some time at home can be spent playing, but other times at home need to be spent studying, which isn’t always going to be the same kind of fun as playing. I’ve been teaching my little guy sight words at home. He’s 4, and he’s has specifically requested to learn to read, so its my estimation that he’s ready to learn. He’s a very active, bouncing 4 year old, and in the short time that he’s been learning, I’ve noticed a change in his behavior, namely a focus and discipline about learning that wasn’t there before. Of course, this is based solely on my personal experience, but I’ve noticed that spending focused time on academics has paid off in a number of very rewarding ways.

      • Ettina

        It’s a pretty big assumption to jump from “this kid has already learned X” to “they must not have had an opportunity to learn Y”. If they’re not learning enough social skills and through play, you’ll see deficits in those areas. You can’t just assume that’s happening because they’ve learned other skills.

  4. Chelsey

    Hi! I really like this teaching strategy to teach sight words. I had trouble reading as a kid and as a teacher don’t want my Pre-K children to go into the school system not being prepared and feeling the same way I did after Kindergarten. I would really like to bring this into my classroom next year but my boss would like to have more research on the research you used to come up with this strategy. I saw you were sponsored by a preschool in Georgia but did not find much on statistics of why this method works. If you could point me towards any of these findings so I can show my boss that would be great!

    Thank You,

    ADMIN – Hi Chelsey,

    The most extensive research for teaching sight words has been done by organizations and clinics that work with struggling readers. It was the Orton Society founded by the neurologist, Samuel T. Orton, and his teacher assistant, Anna Gillingham, that developed the teaching method today known as multi-sensory learning. The research pioneers and programs that developed the techniques demonstrated on the SightWords.com website are listed in the article by C. Wilson Anderson in the Tennessee Dyslexia Association’s newsletter. Anderson is past president of the International Dyslexia Association. The Project READ technique mentioned in the article is the heart of the Wilson Reading method of teaching sight words. Google “Wilson Reading” to find the research supporting the method. Dr Sally Shaywitz provides information and research on Orton-Gillingham multi-sensory teaching in her excellent book, Overcoming Dyslexia. The techniques demonstrated on the SightWords website have been widely employed for decades and found to be effective.

    Our team has been using these methods with great success in our own classrooms. Hope that is what you needed.

    • carolyn

      I tried this link, but it is not found. Are there other links citing research to cite that these strategies are based on best-practices?

  5. Rosemary Nohavitza

    My 5 1/2 year old twin grandchildren live with their Dad and my husband and me. They attend a private school They were born preemies, and both are very well adjusted kiddos. The problem is that it seems they are being expected to excel so much sooner than in public schools. By January they were tested if they could count to 100 to be in the “100 club.” My granddaughter did hers by the end of December, but my grandson just completed his two weeks ago. Now they are expected to get 50-60 sight words, 20 at a time. Granddaughter is fine but I’m beginning to see some frustration in my grandson. Is this pushing too soon for kids that won’t be six until June? Or am I being an overly concerned Grandmother???

    ADMIN – Hi Rosemary,

    Most private schools do expect their children to move faster than public schools do. However, boys tend to progress in reading skills at a slower pace than girls. This factor, combined with prematurity, can cause problems. I think the biggest issue is your grandson’s growing frustration with reading; the last thing you want is to turn him off of reading! Please talk to his teacher about this frustration.

    Trying to learn 20 sight words at a time is probably too much for your grandson. I recommend that he focus on no more than 6 words at a time, with both the teaching techniques and the games. For example, play the Fishing game with 24-30 fish but just 6 words (repeated 4-5 times). It’s much better to truly master a small number of words than to kinda-sorta know a bunch of words. Summer will be a good time to pay extra attention to sight words and fill in the gaps of your grandson’s knowledge.

    Good luck, and thanks for being such an insightful grandparent!

  6. Jen

    Our children’s public school has a goal of 100 sight words by the end of kindergarten.

    • Cynthia

      My daughter’s school has a goal of 60 sights words by the end of kindergarten and 600 words by the end of 1st grade. My daughter attends a public school in Southern California, it’s rated 8 out of 10.

  7. Vicky

    “Many people start with presenting a child with three new words daily for five days in a row. At the end of the week, performing a quick assessment should give the adult guidance as to whether this daily number should be increased or decreased.”

    I was a bit confused… So each day my child would be introduced to three new words? And by the end of a 5-day school week he would have been introduced a total of 15 words?

    ADMIN – Hi Vicky,

    Thank you for pointing out an item we need to edit! In your first lesson, introduce 3-5 new words. Start the next day’s lesson by reviewing those words. If the child remembers those words, move on to introducing 3-5 new words. If he/she struggles with, let’s say, 2 of the previous day’s words, go through our full sequence of teaching techniques with those 2 words and introduce just 1-3 new words.

  8. Kathy

    I am a public school teacher. There is a lot of pressure put on both public and private school students to excel quickly. Do work at home but follow the people who say to introduce a few new words only after the previous few are “easy”, otherwise your child will not enjoy reading and will be turned off by much of school!

  9. Leigh

    My son is in 4k but he is 5 years old, we chose to put him into 3k a year late for his maturity. He has been doing pretty well throughout this year on all of his activities but today his teacher said the class has learned 21 sight words and he doesn’t know any. Should i be concerned about this? She says that on the week that she teaches the word, he knows it, but when she tests him weeks later he doesn’t know any.

    ADMIN – Hi Leigh,

    I wonder if he is getting any kind of reinforcement between the introduction week and the testing a month later. If he isn’t try giving him a little reinforcement 2-3 times per week (reading, games, etc). He might just need a bit of reinforcement. I don’t remember what I learned a month ago if I don’t regularly use it either!

  10. Diana

    My son is in a special school program where he receives speech, OT and PT due to a delay in most of his milestones because he was born premature. Now he’s 5 yrs. old and in Pre-K already. He has accomplished most of his PT & OT goals. His speech still needs very minimal help, but now he’s able to read and has mastered about 25-30 sight words. His teacher says he does excellent work when it comes to reading! Any word he sees in school and/or anywhere we go, he’s able to recognize. My question is, is that normal for a kid his age? Is he on the right track? And if he knows more then he should, what would be the next step? I just want to give him all that he needs and wants to know because he really likes learning. Thank you!!

  11. Tia

    Reading through the comments, I’m wondering if there is a standard (Common Core Standard?) about the number of sight words per grade? Perhaps a general range of number of words? Is there a difference between sight words and spelling words? I mean, I’d generally consider a word like “is” a sight word because you can’t sound it out, but not the word “cat”, because you can. So when people are mentioning 60-100 words in Pre-K or Kindergarten, are they actually talking about sight words, or a more general spelling words?

    ADMIN – Hi Tia,

    Common Core is a bit vague about this. It says (RFK-3-C): Read common high-frequency words by sight (e.g., the, of, to, you, she, my, is, are, do, does).

    I agree, I would focus on phonetically irregular words like because and high frequency words, because these will help kids expand their reading speed and vocabulary beyond what they would get from just learning phonetic strategies alone. In practice, most people use the Dolch list.

  12. Amanda Steff

    Hello, when my students are unsure of the sight word, as in they stare at it but do not know what it is, what is the correct procedure?

    I have been saying the answer for it so that the student is looking at the word and making the association. I do find however that some students become reliant on that, and instead of hazarding a guess or trying to tell me what the word is they become increasingly mute knowing I will just tell them what it is. Can you advise the best way to respond in that scenario? Thank you so much.

    ADMIN – Hi Amanda,

    Great question. We use this Sight Words Corrections method. It only take 20 seconds, and it gives the student 6 chances to repeat the word and form the association. Telling them the answer is great, but we also want to make sure they repeat the word a few times, because that type of active learning sticks better.

  13. Lisa

    Hello reading through all comments helped me realize I’m not pushing my five year old too much. She just turned 5 in June she knows 101 sight words. We read from the Bob Books 5 days a week. I be worrying are we reading to much? We say sight words every day It just seem like she’s to young to know so much. When I feel like shes getting frustrated we stop and start back a little later.

    ADMIN – Hi Lisa,

    Sounds like you are both having fun with it!

  14. Diane frommer

    Could you please direct me to the research that concluded that most children learn sight words better without accompanying pictures?

  15. Erin Osthimer

    My 6 year old son is in Kindergarten and they are supposed to know all 100 words by the one hundredth day of school. My son has memory issues (for things he doesn’t care about) and was also born 6 weeks early with complications. My son will rocket through 20 words one day and not be able to spell his name the next. This is coupled with about 5 or 6 other assignments each night. How to I deal with his teacher who reminds him and me daily that he is one of the few students in the class who can’t do it? I am ripping out my hair. He goes to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy 2 times a week and sees his tutor twice a week. Thanks.

  16. Mary Rivera

    Is a one year old too young to be taught sight words?

    ADMIN – Hi Mary,

    We don’t have any experience teaching children that young Sight Words. I would think it is too early for them. I would guess they don’t have the attention span or the cognitive ability. Most children aren’t even verbalizing at that age. If you want to start with something, I would suggest Baby Sign Language.

    • Ettina

      If you search for Teach Your Baby to Read, you can find a program intended for children that age, but I don’t know if there’s much evidence of it being effective, and it’s definitely not free like this website’s resources! The basic idea is to get really large text flashcards with words only and practice them periodically, showing the flashcard and saying the word and stopping as soon as the kid loses interest. I’d also recommend trying to show them those flashcards during daily routines when that word is relevant – eg hold up a flashcard saying “more” while you are asking if they want more food.


    We just received our 4 year old report card. He can read 66 out of 120 they test him on. is this an average number for 4 year olds?

    ADMIN – Hi Noemie,

    66 words would be more than we would expect from a 4-year-old. One think to watch for in districts that move fast – make sure he masters all those 120 words. What sometimes happens is that the classroom moves onto new words, and some children still haven’t mastered the original set. This can cause long term problems. For example, if you haven’t mastered the word “rest”, it is hard to read “best”, “chest” and “forest.”

  18. Kathy K

    My son is in kindergarten. He knows his 50 sight words when he is at home but when he is at school he acts like he only knows 5. Any suggestions on how to get him to perform at school for the teacher.

  19. Gina615

    I am afraid this is becoming a competitive sport and not a learning experience. My friend put her kid in public school this year and they went very well over 3 per week and at the end of the year she probably knows 100 and is doing great. I kept my little girl 5 in kindergarten in private school. They had to do 20 at a time until memorized and pass a test. At the same time review 43 more and read two stories about 5 pages each per night. They are telling us if they do not know 200 sight words they are not ready for first grade. I think this is insane.

  20. Pamela Noble

    I would like to buy a new Lesson guide and box of games. Please send me ordering link.

  21. Jessica

    Are kindergartners supposed to be able to only recognize sight words or also write and spell them correctly?

  22. Kay

    Hello what are the “solid knowledge of 50 words than to kind of know 300 words”? Do you have these words on a list?

  23. Mel

    I am doing a thesis project based on sight words. I love the first 100 sight word list and was wondering if I need a written permission from the publisher(s) to have it as part of my thesis appendix.
    The link of the first 100 sight words is:

    Thank you for your time!

  24. Nichole

    My first grade daughter is expected to know a thousand sight words by the end of her school year. It seems so excessive to me as a parent and many other teachers I’ve spoken with. But it’s the curriculum apparently. She struggles a lot. Fortunately we’re at 800 but is 1000 even reasonable to expect out of a first grader?? Thank you

    ADMIN – Hi Nichole,

    That is a lot. That isn’t how we would do it. But, we appreciate all the work you are putting in to help her keep up.

  25. Brittany

    In order to orthographically map a word, a child must learn “the code.” That is what the science says. I would encourage anybody who is interested to google “structured literacy.”

  26. Alex

    One app I really like using when I teach my son is this tool called Word Buddy. It is a flashcard app for kids to learn to read their first 1000 words. It has Dolch sight words and Fry lists. Pretty awesome. He is only 5 years old and can already read simple (20–50 words per page, 20–25 pages per book) books mostly by himself. If it wasn’t for his sight word mastery after using Word Buddy, I don’t think he would enjoy reading as much.


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