Sight Words FAQs
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.