Exploring Sight Words: Why Are They Important for Reading and Writing?

June 9, 2022

Learning to read is one of the most fundamental milestones for children. Being able to read well early correlates to better grades, greater interest in school and higher levels of overall achievement. Some early predictors include alphabet knowledge, automatic naming of letters and common objects and understanding sound structure of words. One particularly important step is mastering sight words. What are sight words, how do they accelerate the reading process and allow your child to quickly comprehend what they read? In this blog we find out. 


What are sight words

Sight words –  also known as high-frequency words, star words, core words, and popcorn words – are words that appear frequently in text and that children are expected to instantly recognise. Examples of such words are,  ‘was’, ‘of’, ‘it’, and ‘and’. As children go further into their reading journey and are repeatedly exposed to these words. At some point, they would not need to sound these words out. Instead, they will be able to recognise them immediately by sight – hence, the term, ‘sight words’.

By reading widely and consistently, children can build a large base of sight words. This means every time one of these words appear, they do not have to break down the words into individual letters and sound each one out. Once they are able to do this for several sight words, their speed and fluency of reading improves. This, in turn, aids comprehension. Children are better able to understand the words, paragraphs and stories they read.

The English language is infamous for having lots of words with spelling exceptions – making it especially difficult for those learning the language to sound words out correctly. It’s important to note that some sight words, such as ‘of’, ‘to’ and ‘was’, also do not follow spelling rules, This makes it especially pertinent for children to recognise these type of words. 


What are the basic sight words your child should know? 

The number of sight words children are expected to know increases as they progress through the school years. Children build on what they previously know, mastering basic sight words, paving the way for them to handle more complex words and text. We list the sight words should know at each stage: 

Kindergarten (ages 5 to 6): this, too, that, so, like, no, but, did, do, he, she, they, be, was, all

Kindergarten (ages 6 to 7): after, then, again, how, just, let, some

Primary 1: best, both, buy, been, around, always 


Quick tips for teaching your child sight words: 

1. Read aloud with them

Reading with your child offers several benefits. Research shows that more frequent reading with children and using books to foster language-rich interactions result in improved vocabularies. You can help your child overcome their struggles and allow them to feel more confident about their reading ability. If they stumble on a word – especially a sight word – pause and have them repeat the word several times so that they become more familiarised with it and internalise it. It’s also perfectly fine to read the same book several times. In fact, by breaking up learning into shorter sessions over a period of time, a process known as ‘distributed practice’, you aid retention.  

2. Use flashcards 

Research shows that exposing a word one to four times allows for it to be committed to long-term memory. Sometimes students struggle with particular words, and repeated exposure is required for them to successfully commit them to memory. Make a list of these words and create flashcards with them. Go through one flashcard at a time, showing them the word and reading it out to them, asking them to repeat after you. After you are done with all the cards, test them for each one after. By spending time with your child, assisting them in picking up phonics skills and working through being able to read sight words – you help them become more proficient at increasing their base of sight words and their vocabulary in general.

3. Use multisensory techniques

Sensory play helps in memory retention. By engaging their five senses, you allow stronger connections to be made and for information to be retained. Introduce playdough to your child and have them mould the letters of the sight word. Or take your learning out of your home, and try having your child draw out sight words in the sand when you’re at the beach. 


Utilize the technique of Reading with Purpose™ or Spelling Secrets™ 

Inculcate a love of reading in your child by increasing their level and ease of reading proficiency. Join MindChamps’ Reading, where your child’s ability to read will be assessed and the necessary reading techniques will be taught. Through reading enrichment classes for kids, your child will increase their bank of sight words and pick up phonics skills – making them a more confident and skilled reader. 

Speak with us now to learn more.