Learning lists of sight words is an activity familiar to beginning readers, their parents and teachers. There’s no denying the importance of being able to recognise words by sight, and the aid it is to reading fluency and comprehension. Yes, comprehension. Due to the constraints of short-term memory, it is difficult to think about meaning, when working memory is employed in attempts to figure out individual words.
Many lists of basic sight words are available, but there is a consistency to the words included and their number, generally varying between one and two hundred. Many of the words do not have a regular letter-sound correspondence and cannot be “sounded out” using knowledge of phonics. They are also words that have meaning only in context and cannot be “pictured”. The words make up a high percentage of those appearing in texts for beginning readers and so are often referred to as high frequency words.
Children are often given lists of words to take home and learn with the assistance of parents. Not all parents know how to encourage children to learn the words and it can be a battle if children struggle to remember them. If you are sending children home with words to learn, it is important to provide parents with strategies as well as what they need; for example:
Provide the words on strips or in small booklets with the word written on one side and a short sentence with a picture on the other for checking.
Provide one set of words. Spread the words face up on the table. Ask the child to find the word; for example, put. This is easier at first as other letter/sound cues can be used. Later, as the child is