What Are Sight Words and Why Are They Important?

When it comes to knowledge acquisition and processing, sight words play a vital role in helping children learn how to read and become fluent. Sight words can shape the foundation of a child’s reading journey, and they can set the stage for further development of reading skills, like comprehension or prosody

What exactly are sight words?

Also known as high-frequency words, because they are used commonly and quite often in our daily lives, sight words are not meant to be ‘read,’ but ‘scanned,’ and automatically recognized by the reader on sight. Having a rich and extensive vocabulary of sight words can help improve reading speed and achieve fluency, but in order for this to be achieved, reading practice is critical. The more a child reads, the more they will come across the same words over and over again, and in time, they will be able to recognize them immediately, without having to read them letter by letter. 

What role do they play?

While they might seem like simple, unassuming words, sight words are the vital links that connect phrases and sentences and help the reader go through text effortlessly and seamlessly. These words play a critical role in early literacy, and without the power to master them, children might go on to struggle with reading fluency and experience a lot of frustration, anxiety, and anger about it. Sight words also help children develop word decoding skills, so mastering them can have a significant impact on language acquisition and even communication skills down the line into adulthood. 

What are some examples of sight words?

Sight words are short, easy words that children and adults recognize instantly without having to spell or sound them out. Recognizing these words helps children read faster and become fluent readers. Building a large base of sight words allows children to read quickly and start to ‘scan’ certain parts of a text with ease, without pausing to think about how to read a certain word. Here are a few examples of commonly-used sight words:

Be, he, she, they, it, but, do, was, what, with, have, his, of, then, when, from, could, after, again, because, around, before, right, been, light, only, laugh, better, body, questions, certain, complete – the complexity of sight words increases with each grade; children learn the easiest sight words in kindergarten, then gradually progress to longer, more complex sight words. 

Why are sight words so important? 

Sight words are a critical component of the reading journey, and they play a huge role during the early stages of reading development. Here are some of the biggest benefits of sight words in the classroom:

  • Building reading fluency: sight words help young readers improve their reading speed, comprehension, and fluency, by learning to recognize certain words instantly, without having to stop and process
  • Developing decoding skills: through sight words, children learn to decode unfamiliar words, and expand their vocabulary as they keep practicing and seeing the same sight words pop up 
  • Expanding vocabulary: sight words are usually high-frequency words that tend to be used quite often in our daily lives. Learning these words will allow children to expand their vocabulary, gradually adding more complex words to the mix as their reading skills progress
  • Improving spelling skills: sight words tend to include words that feature irregular spelling patterns, or they don’t follow common phonetic rules, making it challenging for children to master. But through practice and exercise, they can learn to recognize these words on the spot and break them down into syllables and letters with ease

These are just some of the main benefits of sight words when it comes to teaching children how to read. These words help form the foundation needed to build reading fluency in young students, and they help develop crucial decoding, spelling, and comprehension skills, while also expanding one’s vocabulary. 

Are you interested in learning more about sight words or want to further expand your skills as an educator to better serve the needs of your students? Read our blog for more insights, and stay informed of future training sessions hosted by Da Vinci Collaborative experts.

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