How To Teach Sight Words To Struggling Readers

September 7, 2020

How To Teach Sight Words To Struggling Readers

Most people think that children start to learn to read in school. However, learning to read actually starts at home, long before they enter school! Teaching your child simple reading skills even before they enter school can help them learn quicker and better later on.

There are many studies that show that even reading to a baby in the womb has many benefits. Often, children who do not get enough exposure to reading at home end up struggling with reading.

One way children first learn to read is through sight words, so it is essential for parents to know how to teach sight words to struggling readers

What are sight words?

Sight words are words that must be memorized because they do not follow conventional spelling and phonetic rules and are often commonly used words in a language.

Sight words are best taught to be memorized early on in the reading process so that children will not have to decode them later on through spelling or phonetic clues. Instead, they automatically see the word and know it’s meaning and function.

There is often confusion between sight words and high-frequency words. Some high-frequency words are also considered sight words, but not all sight words are necessarily high-frequency words. However, sight words must be words that do not follow the phonetic and spelling rules of a language.

How To Teach Sight Words To Struggling Readers

How many sight words should my child know? 

The amount of sight words your child should know depends on their age and grade level. 

By the end of kindergarten, your child should be proficient with about 20 sight words and by first grade, 100 words.

Once your child is in second grade they might be learning and able to identify over 200 sight words. The more sight words they know the more fluent they become with reading and the easier reading comprehension will be for them. Basically, the more sight words your child knows the better readers they will become.

So, if more sight words means a better reader, how can we help struggling reading learn more sight words?

How can I help my child learn sight words?

It might seem overwhelming for you and your child to learn over hundreds of sight words. Here are some helpful ways to make teaching and learning sight words easier:

  • Set Goals – In order to keep track of how many sight words your child is learning, it is good to set goals. It can also be helpful to create a visual such as a chart or graph where your child can see the progress that they are making.

Although on average readers should be adding about 100 sight words to their vocabulary by the end of each school year, you might want to modify that for your child if they are struggling.

You want to set goals that can get your child to their target reading level, but they should be goals that are also realistic.

  • Teach little by little – Instead of overwhelming your struggling reader with dozens of sight words, introduce words in small groups.

Your child should work with about five words at a time and then once they have mastered those five sight words, they can move on to another five.

  • Practice one word daily – The best way for your child to memorize a sight word is to practice, practice, and practice.

It takes the average child about four to 14 exposures to learn a new word. The more exposures that your child has to a word the quicker they will learn it.

One way to help them practice is to choose one word to use daily and to use it as much as they can all day whether they are speaking or writing it. You should do the exercise with them and try to use the daily word with them as much as possible as well. This can help them have a model for how and when to use the word.

How To Teach Sight Words To Struggling Readers

  • Play games – Children learn best when they are having fun. Playing games that utilize sight words can be a fun way to learn new words for your children.

There are plenty of online resources that you can use such as worksheets and word game apps. But, you can also make materials yourself such as word searches, word bingo, or even just play “I spy” with words.

  • Find them in books – Playing “I Spy” with words is a great exercise to use when reading with your child. 

Finding sight words in books can help show your struggling reader how sight words are actually used and can help them see them in context.

While memorizing sight words is helpful, you want to also make sure that your child knows how to use them and how they help bring meaning to sentences.

  • Use a reading app – Online tools can also help you teach your struggling reader sight words. Apps such as Readability are great tools to use because they help turn the learning process into an interactive and fun activity.

Readability works like a private tutor for your child and listens to them as they read a loud then identifies words that they mispronounce or say incorrectly. The app then gives them feedback and error correction.

This is a great way to check which sight words your child still needs to learn and also helps with their vocabulary building in general.

Using a specialized reading app such as Readability can help them learn to read quickly and easily. Readability makes reading fun and interactive so your child does not even realize they are learning!

Learning to read can be difficult for many children. If they are struggling to read early on, it is important to give them support and help right away. Sight words are often a good way to help a struggling reader because it gives them a tool to easily identify words and helps them to read more fluently.