What are Sight Words? Strategies to teach sight words for effective results

Last Updated on October 10, 2023 by Editorial Team

Life skills are fundamental to living a fulfilled life in the best way. Out of all the necessary skills, one of the finest and most crucial of such skills is language skills. The language skills are primarily cultivated by Listening and Speaking, while they are enhanced by reading and writing. The basics of reading and writing are word recognition, i.e., the ability to recognize words quickly.

If an individual recognizes a word at first sight, without any conscious attention, the word is termed as a “sight word.” If the required and highly used words are all instantaneously spotted, every word becomes a sight word. Spotting these sight words is the main aim of educating a child for a strong foundation. Read on further to learn more about sight words, the difference between sight words and high-frequency words, methods of teaching sight words effectively, etc.

What are sight words?

Sight words are terms that can be read instantaneously and spontaneously without any difficulty or need for conscious attention. Any word that a learner can recognize easily and read it right away is called a sight word.

For a fluent reader, there is less probability to pause to recognize the word, meaning that most words are sight words for him/her. But there are also other prominent definitions associated with sight words. Irregular and unfamiliar words that can’t be decoded with the approach of phonetics, like “could,” “of’ / words memorized as such, wholly, for comfortable reading/high–frequency words are other definitions.

What is the importance of learning sight words?

  • Sight words are very crucial for learners to master as these words constitute about seventy-five percent of the actual content in a learner’s beginning printed material,  as per the “Study to Identify High-Frequency Words in Printed Materials[1],” undertaken by D.J. Kear and M.A. Gladhart.
  • There are various kinds of sight words at different levels of grade, and every set of words is gradually built on others. It implies that the sight words learned in Kindergarten would be expected to be identified in higher grades too, along with other new words he/she learning.
  • The other major benefit is that Sight words enhance the confidence of an individual since the first hundred sight words learned constitute about half of the complete English text. Thus, if a child starts to read a book/ material and can identify most of the words, the probability is very low for a child to feel discouraged and leave reading the reading material.
  • Sight words aid in enhancing reading comprehension. Instead of trying to decipher and decode all the words, the child would focus his/her attention on the words he/she is not familiar with, and the understanding of the text is strengthened.
  • Above all, sight words offer the idea of the essence of the context of the text. If a child has good command over the sight words, he/she can interpret the meaning of the entire sentence/paragraph. Thus, he can progress forward with just a very small number of new words.

Difference between sight words and high-frequency words

The terms “high–frequency words” and “sight words” are interchangeably used, but they aren’t the same and possess a lot of differences. The difference must be understood for teaching only the required set of sight words, and not all that is presumed to be sight words.

High-frequency words are to be understood clearly as the words that occur most commonly in a prin. The finest examples are Fry’s Instant Words and  Dolch Words. (the, of, and, to, in, etc.).

Meanwhile, sight words are the words, the learner identifies “at first sight.” Any word that a learner can recognize easily and read it right away is called a sight word. The educators/caretakers can train a child to make all the high-frequency words sight words so that the child knows almost all words recurring frequently and can identify and read them spontaneously.

Top sight words list for everyone

Since sight words are the basics to master the language, all learners must be taught the required sight words at the right time. A list of top sight words that are a must- known are –  A, The, Of, I, Go, You, Do, To, And, Me, Can, Yellow, Red, See, Be, big, little, blue, thank, away, etc. – a melange of Fry’s Instant Words and  Dolch Words.

There is an already-prepared and highly organized list of sight words, separately for every level, and that must be known or steadily learned – like the Dolch words. We already prepared a 100 sight words worksheet for classroom practice.

Top 10 effective ways to teach sights words

1. Sight Word Notebook

  Sight Word Notebook

Children love creation and innovation desperately. Thus, using creation and innovation, sight words can be taught. The children can be asked to create their own “Sight Word Notebook,” where he/she would constantly add/update the new words that are acquired.

Also, a sentence using the word would be written accompanying the word so that the child retains the word in its memory. The game also induces sentence formation skills in a child, yet another critical dimension of language.

2. Music and songs

music sight words practice

Music can be used in teaching sight words, too, by tapping into its potential to stay in memory for a long time.  Music can render the students an auditory hint to take along with the visual appeal of the text. The music can be manipulated according to the child’s needs.

For example, taking a tune, and blending the sight words instead of actual words and the child can add to the music, the new words he/she is learning.

3. Reward Program

teddy gift

Rewards always motivate people to explore experiment and learn more. The same technique is applied in the “reward program” to educate the child with sight words.  When a child has learned a set of a considerable number of sight words, understood, and demonstrated its meaning and usage, he/she will be rewarded with a prize, something that can leave them memorable. This method would work at its best, especially in groups, since it fosters healthy competition. 

4. Poem and songs

child reading a  book

Having hands-on activities in the learning process is always pretty exciting. The “poem and songs” render the kids a joyous learning process of sight words since they create and maintain their poetry, not books. A poem or song would be added to the notebook weekly, and those poems would be read and re-read again, which can promote fluency in reading. The kids can also highlight sight words or contradictorily the unfamiliar words and fiddle much more with the notebook and learn.

5. Target practice

target practice dart

The “target practice” is a fabulous and unique game that trains the child with sight words in the most indulging and engaging way. A target poster/bottle/target is hung on a wall that has all sight words that are required to be learned by the learner. The children would aim rightly at a target and shoot with a Nerf Gun/suction cup arrow. And then, the interesting part begins where they must rightly read the words.

6.  Online typing course

kids online typing boy

Young children can seemingly type since their hands grow to mature enough to use a keyboard; at the same time, they learn to read and write. It has been found that typing registers those words in the memory of the children and mainly serves the best for children with learning difficulties like dysgraphia and dyslexia.

It is because research[2] shows typing course helps them to use their muscle memory to aid in spelling and recognizing words. The best course would be TTRS since it has modules comprising only sight words. 

7.  Everyday objects

Everyday objects

One of the major hindrances faced in educating is the inability to connect education and the real world. But the activity, “Everyday Objects” helps in using real-world physical objects to teach the sight words.  Ice cream sticks, and play dough, are some best examples that can be used to make these words. The children would try out something innovative by themselves that helps in longer retention of the words in memory of the child and more visual appeal.

8.  Sensory writing

 Sensory writing

Learning would be monotonous if it’s merely chalk and talk or lecturing, especially for kids. Hence, activities like “sensory writing” are for rescue. Any platform to write like a tray of salt/mud/flour would be spread on a surface, and the child would trace/write words with one’s fingers. The words would have a greater appeal, and the overall experience would be an indulging, awe-inspiring experience for them to physically write down the words for diversified platforms.

9. Invisible ink

Invisible ink

Invisibility and magic can always bring a smile to the child’s face. This magic is used for a splendid learning experience. Also, the sight words are written by a caretaker/educator on a blank piece of paper with a white crayon. The child would then paint over the paper with paint color(preferably, water paint), and this would reveal the concealed words. The child has to read the word correctly. The fun-filled game mustn’t be missed out!

10. Minute to win it

 Minute to win it

The game, “Minute to Win It,” is an extraordinary game that checks the frequency with which the child can read out the sight words. A list of sight words would be offered by the caretaker/ instructor to the child, and the instructor would start the timer. The child would read out the words quickly, and the timer would be paused after one minute. The caretaker would keep track of the time, and the child would work together with an instructor for a target.

Closing note

Any skill can be inculcated easily with the right methods of teaching it. In the present world of technological innovation, one can employ a large number of ideas, and methods, and make learning as fun-filled as possible. Those ways mentioned above are some recommended ways to teach sight words, among others.


  1. Kear, D. J., & Gladhart, M. A. (1983). Comparative Study to Identify High-Frequency Words in Printed Materials. Perceptual and Motor Skills. https://doi.org/10.2466/pms.1983.57.3.807
  2. Tesselhof, M. (2019). Touch-typing for better spelling and narrative-writing skills on the computer. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 35(1), 143-152. https://doi.org/10.1111/jcal.12323

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