What are sight words?

And how can you practise them

16 January, 2023

Sight words, also known as high frequency words, are the words that commonly appear in English language texts. These words make up a large percentage of any text, and early readers need to become familiar with them in order to develop their fluency in reading.

For children learning to read, mastering sight words is crucial. These words are sometimes irregular in terms of spelling and pronunciation, and cannot be easily decoded through phonics. For example, the words "was", "the", “want” and “what” cannot be sounded out phonetically so need to be memorised.

Repetitive practice may not sound exciting but it is an effective method for memorisation! The aim of the game is to get our students to the point where they can instantly recognise, say and write these high frequency words. You could do through using:

  • Flashcards: Prepare flashcards with the sight words on them and go over them with your students regularly. You could also use online flashcards or apps so that students could also practise independently.

  • Word lists: Create a list of sight words and have your students practise reading them aloud. Repeat the list several times a day, gradually increasing the number of words as your students become more comfortable.

  • Reading aloud: Read aloud to your students regularly and encourage them to repeat the high frequency words they hear. This will help them become more familiar with the words and improve their fluency.

  • Word games: Play word games with your students, such as Scrabble, Boggle or Hangman, using the high frequency words. This will make the learning process fun and engaging.

Alongside learning sight words, students should continue to be taught phonics, word families, spelling patterns and strategies for decoding and recording unknown words. You can learn more about phonics here.


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