How to Teach Sight Words

Learning how to teach sight words is a difficult task and may take a lot of trial and error. From the earliest days of school, we begin to develop the techniques required to read. These encompass all types of words: nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs and objects. Sight words are the 220 words that a reader can readily recognize as soon as he or she sees them. Many of them can not be represented by pictures and have to be learned by sheer memorization. Sight words, often known as high frequency words and , Dolch words make up approximately 65 percent of the words that we read.

How to Teach Sight Words How to Teach Sight Words

To help a child develop the vocabulary they will require to read with excellent proficiency, it is a good idea to begin to teach them sight words before they head off to school and then each year in school. There are lists of sight words broken down into grade levels to aid parents and teachers in determining which words to concentrate their efforts on, depending on the age and grade level of the child.

Sample Sight Words

Since sight words are primarily those common words that are used frequently, it is assumed that young readers can make the automatic association as soon as they see the word.

A few examples of common sight words which are used daily include:

  • A
  • The
  • Of
  • I
  • Go
  • You
  • Do
  • To
  • And

There are prepared lists of sight words, often called Dolch words. These words are presorted by grade level, kindergarten through third grade, so by the fourth and fifth grade, the students will have learned the full list.

Teaching Sight Words

There is no specific way to teach sight words, however, there are numerous techniques and activities that can be used to enlist the child in wanting to learn them. Here are a few examples:

Reward Program

One of the techniques that work well is to develop a reward program for learning the words. As the child learns a set of words and has demonstrated a grasp of their usage and meaning, he can earn a prize or symbol of his efforts. This method works extremely well in groups of children where a spirit of competition can be developed and students will make the effort to out perform the other students.

Sight Word Notebook

Another method that can be used includes having the child make a sight word notebook where he can write the new sight words he learns in the pages and then develop a sentence using the sight word. This will help to cement the words in the child's memory.

Flash Cards

The tried and true flash card can encourage learning through sight recognition. Continuous use of flash cards with sight words will mean that students will pick up the most common sight words quickly.

For example:

  • Write down sight words on the cards and let the children read them off as you pass through them. To spice it up a little, think about using different colors and incude a picture on the back of the flash card.
  • Spread out a certain number of cards before a student and have them sort the cards - depending on the age of the child you might want to have them sort the words by the first letter or the length of the word. Once they have completed their sorting, they can read them to the class.


The key to memorizing facts about any subject is repetition. The more often the facts are presented to you, the easier it is to memorize the facts. This rule of thumb is also true about sight words. Keep them in front of the child and make sure they understand their meaning and that they can use the words in sentences.

Write a Story

You will find that high frequency words are easier to teach if you can make it fun for kids, and one way to do that is by writing a story that includes the words. This could be any kind of story and does not have to be something that is very complicated... in fact it shouldn't be complex. Think about a theme that you can write about that would be great for both girls and boys and use it to build a story.


Games are a wonderful way to interest the child and help him not think of the task as work. They learn to listen to spoken words, as well as to comprehend information that is read or spoken. They will also reinforce the new sight words from their learning as they seek them out and listen for them in a story.

Many games can be adapted to teach sight words:

  • Bingo - Generate Bingo cards that have sight words on them in place of numbers. Each card will have a different set of sight words. Distribute the cards among the children and tell them to mark a square that corresponds to one of the sight words that they are learning.

Tell them you will read them a story and as they hear one of the words, they should mark that square. When they have formed a line of sight words from one edge to the opposite edge of the card, they shout Bingo. Begin reading a story to the class and continue until one of the children calls out Bingo. Check their list of words and award a prize for their success. Good prizes to give out are pieces of candy, tickets that they can use to redeem in toy treasure chest, or any other creative gift idea that you think will motivate students to work hard.

  • Baseball - Make the sight words the bases.

The Internet is a great resource for games to teach sight words. Many of these games are free, and some of the games are specifically designed for very young children.


Teaching young children is easiest when you do something that they like and reward them for a job well done. Use stickers, snacks or small toys as options to help children learn better. When something motivates them, they learn better and actually want to learn.

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