Sight Words for Kids: Kindergarten and Beyond!
No matter whether kindergarten children will be learning in person, online, or a hybrid of the two, parents and teachers are still focused on ensuring their emerging readers develop a love for reading while learning to read effectively and efficiently. One critical skill that children need in order to build solid foundational reading skills is sight word recognition.
What Are Sight Words?
When we teach children to read, we are basically helping them to crack a code. Children learn to hear and say the sounds of the alphabet and then how to blend those sounds to make words. These sounds usually follow basic spelling rules or phonetic principles, but there are some words that did not follow rules. These words are called sight words.
Most sight words cannot be decoded or sounded out, and they are also difficult to represent with a picture. As a result, children must learn to recognize these words automatically, or at first sight. Children who are able to quickly and instantly recognize sight words are more likely to become more fluent readers who read at a good speed because they are not stopping to try to decode every word. When children recognize sight words within three seconds, they are also more likely to comprehend what they are reading. Children who are able to instantly recognize sight words are more likely to be confident readers because over 50-70 percent of the general English text is made up of sight words.
There are several sight word lists for emerging readers. One list is called the Dolch Word List, created by E.W. Dolch in 1936. The list contains 220 of the most commonly used words that should be recognized by first sight. The list is divided by grade level from Pre-K through third grade, but many educators believe that these words should be mastered by first grade. In addition to the 220 sight words, the Dolch Word List also includes 95 high-frequency nouns. In the 1950’s, Dr. Edward Fry expanded the Dolch Word List to include 1,000 commonly used words in the English language. Fry updated the Fry Sight Word List in 1980, which is comprised of the most commonly used words in books, newspapers, and other publications. Like the Dolch Word list, the Fry Sight Word List is made up of both sight words and high-frequency words and is divided by grade level. Teachers will generally pull from one or both of these lists to create the sight words that children should learn. It is important for parents to keep in mind that children are expected to be able to instantly recognize sight words they have learned previously.
Examples of Sight Words for Kids
Here is a list of sight words and high-frequency words for Pre-K, kindergarten, and first grade that have been taken from both the Dolch Word and Fry Sight Word Lists.
a, and, away, big, blue, can, come, down, find, for, funny, go, help, here, I, in, is, it, jump, little, look, make, me, my, not, one, play, red, run, said, see, the, three, to, two, up, we, where, yellow, you
about, all, am, an, are, as, at, ate, be, been, black, brown, but, by, call, came, could, day, did, do, each, eat, first, four, from, get, good, had, has, have, he, her, him, his, how, if, into, like, long, made, many, may, more, must, new, no, now, number, of, oil, on, or, other, our, out, part, people, please, pretty, ran, ride, saw, say, she, sit, so, some, soon, than, that, their, them, then, there, these, they, this, time, to, under, use, want, was, water, way, well, went, were, what, when, which, white, who, will, with, word, would, write, yes, your
add, after, again, air, also, America, animal, another, answer, any, around, ask, back, because, before, boy, change, different, does, end, even, every, fly, follow, food, form, found, give, going, great, hand, high, home, house, just, kind, know, land, large, learn, let, letter, line, live, man, mean, men, most, mother, move, much, must, name, need, near, off, old, only, once, open, over, page, picture, place, point, put, read, right, round, same, say, sentence, set, should, show, small, sound, spell, still, stop, study, such, take, tell, thank, things, think, through, too, try, turn, us, very, walk, want, well, why, work, world, year
Site Words FAQs
Q: What is the difference between sight words and high-frequency words?
A: While both sight words and high-frequency words are important, they are not the same. Sight words are words that cannot be decoded, so knowing spelling rules or phonics will not help a child sound out the word. High-frequency words are commonly used words that students need to know. Some high-frequency words are decodable using spelling and phonics rules, and some are not. As a result, it is important to help students recognize both sight word and high-frequency words by sight, so that they can recognize them automatically. As you begin to introduce spelling rules, phonics and syllabication to Kindergarten children, be sure to highlight high-frequency words they have memorized that fit a given rule. Regardless of whether the word is a sight word or high-frequency words, they both must be taught explicitly and systemically so that children will know them automatically.
Q: When should sight words be taught?
A: While most Pre-K children are able to master some sight words, it is important to remember that children learn language skills at different rates. They also have different interest levels when it comes to learning words. Some children are eager and ready to learn while others may not be. As a result, there is no specific age to begin teaching sight words. So try some fun sight word activities with your two- or three-year old children, but do not push if they are not interested. Let your child’s developmental readiness and interest level guide you.
Q: How many sight words should kindergarteners learn?
A: There are varying opinions as to how many words children should learn. Some literacy experts like Tim Shanahan believe that kindergarteners should master 20 sight words by the end of kindergarten. The Dolch word list has 40 words listed for Pre-K students and some school districts require that kindergarteners learn 100 sight words by the end of the school year. Consider your children’s progress and interest levels as well as your school district’s expectation to help decide on the appropriate number of sight words for your children.
Q: What order should I teach sight words?
A: There is no one set prescribed order to teach sight words. Some teachers and parents teach the sight words from the Dolch or Fry lists in alphabetical order. Others use the lists and create their own order. Consider using the Frequency Fry List that has words ranked by the frequency of use for reading and writing. To help children learn sight words and get them to stick, create your own lists to teach students the words not only in isolation, but also in context. For example, if you decide to read a specific book, teach the sight words from the book you are reading. This gives children practice reading the word in isolation and also helps them to see how the word is used in language.
Q: How many sight words can be taught in a day?
A: Before determining a set number of sight words to teach, it is important to focus on the number of words that children are actually learning. It is important to consider the quality of their learning, not the quantity. Make certain that children can recognize sight words instantly and accurately before rushing to complete a certain number of words. Before starting, be sure to consider the child’s age, motivation and memory skills. Keep in mind that a child who can instantly and accurately name 50 sight words is building a more solid reading foundation versus a child who “kind of knows” 100 words.
Start by introducing children to three to five new words during a given lesson. During the next day’s lesson, review the previously introduced words. If children remember all of the words, consider introducing three to five new words. If children do not remember the previous words, review the previously introduced words and wait to introduce new words. Also, consider reducing the number of words you introduce in each lesson to one or two words if children are struggling or feel overwhelmed.
Learning Without Tears Knows Sight Words!
There are lots of fun, engaging strategies to teach children sight words. Before you begin teaching sight words, make certain you have broken down the word lists into manageable and differentiated lists for your students. Secondly, no matter whether you are teaching your children in person or virtually, it is important to devote at least 15-20 minutes a day to teaching sight words. Lastly, make learning sight words is a fun and interactive activity. Below are 10 engaging sight words activities to do with your children.
Sight Word Concentration – On index cards, write the same sight words on two separate cards. Make two piles – one with the word and the other with the matching word. Mix the two piles and place them face down. Have children take turns to find the matching cards. Consider having children write down the words that they found. Use Learning Without Tears’ A+ Worksheet Maker to create worksheets where they can copy the words.
Build-A-Sight Word – Children love building words with manipulatives like magnetic alphabet letters. Learning Without Tears’ Magnetic Lowercase & Blackboard Set contains magnetic lowercase letters and a magnetic blackboard with double lines so that children can build and write sight words. Children can also build sight words using Learning Without Tears’ free Make Your Own Letter Cards.
Sight Word Bingo – Create individual bingo cards using sight words that you have introduced. You can also give students a blank board and have them write the words in the boxes from a list you provide. Be sure to have the words written on index cards and pull them out of a container to call the sight words. Students should place a marker on the word when it is called. Students must yell "Sight Word Bingo!" when they have covered a vertical, horizontal, or diagonal row.
Stamp Out Sight Words – Using alphabet cookie cutters, have students stamp out letters using dough, then have children build sight words. Model for students first, then have them do it with you. After guiding them, have them try to build it independently. This fun activity is also great for building fine motor skills.
Sentences with Sight Words – Learning Without Tears’ Sentence School is a great way to help students learn sight words and write sentences. Students will love the engaging, hands-on lessons, and the guide is a great resource for teachers and parents alike.
Sight Word Detective – Show children a sight word with a missing letter. Have children act as detectives to find the missing letter. You can play as a whole class, in teams, or individually. To make it more challenging, remove more than one letter. Also consider using the word with the missing letter in a sentence to help children practice context clues. You can write letters on a white board or use magnetic letters.
Sight Word Scramble – Using magnetic letters or letter cards, mix up the letters of the sight word and have children unscramble the words to reveal the correct spelling of the sight word. You can involve more children by giving each child a letter and have them spell out a sight word.
Sight Word Sing-a-Long – Music is a great teaching tool for children and adults. Learning Without Tears has lots of fun, engaging, and catchy songs to help students learn sight words. Consider displaying the lyrics from Learning Without Tears’ Rock, Rap, and Learn CD on a white board and have children circle all of the sight words. Lyrics to all songs are located on Learning Without Tears’ Handwriting Interactive Teaching Tool.
Read and Write Engaging Stories – Children feel more confident and excited when they begin to recognize words in a book. When reading to children, help them to identify sight words. Learning Without Tears’ MatMan Book series contains lots of sight words. Give sight word readers to children to begin reading on their own. After reading a story, write the sight words that they see and have children copy them. Also, encourage your students to create a funny story by writing down a sentence from each child. Circle all of the sight words they use.
Hand Activity Sight Words – To help children recognize sight words automatically and make them stick, teach them the attributes of the words using Learning Without Tears’ Hand Activity Method. Some lowercase letters are tall (b,f,h), some are small (a, e, n), and some are descending (j, p, y). Have them use their hands to spell out the words or use the hands and letters from LWT’s Magnetic Lowercase & Blackboard Set to help them visualize the words. Also, consider highlighting other attributes of words—like the number of letters, consonants, and vowels—in order to help students connect with sight words.
Explicitly teaching children sight words in a fun, engaging manner will help to build their reading rate, fluency, and confidence. Sight words will build a solid foundation for students to become proficient readers. Have fun!