What are sight words? They are words that we just know to look at them. And we know what they mean without thinking. Right now, as an adult, your sight word vocabulary is probably in the thousands of words. Maybe even hundred thousands. And, they are based around your specialty. If you are a scientist, or in the medical profession, you have hundreds of sight words in your vocabulary that would be words I would have to sound out using phonics or other reading techniques, and I’d have to look up in a dictionary. If you are an engineer or mathematician, you have a different set of sight word vocabulary. And lawyers, well, that’s a whole other set. I love to cook and bake, so my sight word set includes words like rigatoni and fusilli, parboil and blanche.
But as a child, we start as a blank slate. And there are basic sight words that can’t be sounded out phoneme by phoneme (fo-neem = sound by sound). And there are words like the word phoneme that don’t sound like they look. We have to be taught at some point that p and h together say /f/. So where do you start? Obviously singing the alphabet with your child is awesome. But beyond that, you can begin working on letter sounds with your child. (I’ll do a whole other post on teaching letters and sounds, I promise.) And you can start introducing the basic sight words they’ll need to know. You can usually find some little picture cards with words on them at Dollar Tree. They’ll have a picture of a cat and the word “cat” on the card. These are fabulous. You can write words on index cards like “tv,” “couch,” “fireplace,” and “fish tank” to post on those items around your house (if you chose to do this… I personally don’t like labeling my whole world. Some moms love this idea, which is why I shared it.)
You can also find a great set of what are determined by professionals (Dolch and Fry are the most common) to be sight words in flashcard form here. Different schools use different lists. But if you are working with your child ahead, then any list you work on is fabulous. The more words your child can become accustomed to, the better.
Am I saying you should drill your three and four year olds with flash cards to prepare them for kindergarten? NO! But these “flashcards” are a fabulous way to keep the words present in your child’s mind. Perhaps you post a couple of them random places in your home – maybe one on the refrigerator door with some magnets so your child can build the word occasionally. Perhaps on the mirror where he or she brushes her teeth. Maybe put one on the garage door, and read it as you go out to the car. Or maybe you want to get really fun and build words with “skeleton bones” – check out this super fun word building idea from Jamie over at Hands On As We Grow. You can easily put three – five sight word cards on a tray with the “skeleton bones” and let your child practice building the words. Nothing says you have to take these cards and hang them on a “word wall” alphabetically. But you could. Totally up to you and how interactive you want to be with them – remembering that the more FUN interaction your child has with a word, the more likely it is to become a member of your child’s sight word vocabulary.
You can also use them with your older child to begin basic alphabetizing skills – presort the cards so that there’s only one word that starts with each letter, then add more in as their skills increase.
Come back next Friday as we explore a different kind of sight words – called “Environmental Print.”