With so many words in English that kids need to know by sight, it’s important that you teach them clearly.
Fortunately, this is very easy to do, and better yet, it can be great fun for the kids, too.
In this article, we’re going to explain what sight words are exactly, and give you examples of the first few sight words they need to learn. Then, we’ll move on more generally onto how to teach them to your kids.
Later on, we will also be listing and describing 8 specific and easy ways to teach some of these all important sight words to preschoolers.
Then we will answer some of your most frequently asked questions on the subject, before rounding off the article with our final thoughts.
By the end of the article, you will know exactly how to begin and how to continue. And your child will soon have all the sight word knowledge they need before they start school for real.
(Please feel free to scroll ahead to any sections that jump out at you.)
And without further ado, let’s get straight to it!
What Exactly Are Sight Words Anyway?
Sight words are the words that kids need to learn to recognize instantly by sight rather than have to build up or sound out.
They are the sort of words that come up frequently in everyday language, such as “the” and “it”. They are all words that kids should already understand by the time they hit preschool age.
And the task now is to get them to recognize the printed form of these words, so that when they learn to read, they will already know most of the most frequently used words, and are then free to concentrate on words that they have to build up.
There are a whopping 220 sight words in the English language. However, there’s no need to worry. Preschoolers don’t need to learn them all before they start school.
Most children will be able to learn a few sight words at the age of four and around 20 sight words by the end of their first year of school.
Teaching these sight words can be quite tricky, because it’s not as simple as pointing to a picture in a picture book and having the word spelled out underneath.
This is because most of these words do not describe objects, but are more usually the small words between more significant words in a sentence. But this article aims to show you how.
Examples Of Sight Words
Here follows a list of the top few sight words that your preschooler should learn to recognize first (in alphabetical order):
all, am, are, at, ate, be, black, brown, but, came, did, do, eat, four, get, good, have, he, into, like, must, new, no, now, on, our, out, please, pretty, ran, ride, saw, say, she, so, soon, that, there, they, this, too, under, want, was, well, went, what, white, who, will, with, yes.
How To Teach Sight Words To Your Preschooler
Here follows some tips on teaching sight words to your preschooler
Make Everything Crystal Clear
Learning sight words is both a visual and an auditory task. Kids are required to associate printed words with the words they already use in their day-to-day language.
In order to recognize each word, the words must always be clearly visible and readable. Ideally they will be printed in a large font, and/or bold font, and they should not be written in cursive.
If your child seems to struggle to see the words, it may be worth getting them to an optician just to double check that they don’t have problems with their vision.
And when you tell them what each word means for the first time, you must enunciate clearly, and pronounce the word as it should be properly pronounced.
And likewise, if they struggle to get the sound of the word right, you might consider getting their hearing checked.
Learning these sight words is central to developing their ability to read and write, so it’s important that this information is drilled into them so well, that once they learn them, they do not forget them easily.
And one of the most effective ways to do this is by repetition. Repeat, repeat, and repeat some more.
You don’t have to worry about the preschooler getting bored with this, because it is a fun challenge for them and they do not get bored with it easily.
You can break the monotony up for yourself when teaching by moving on from one word to another, but always coming back to previous words at a later stage.
It’s very important that you lavish praise on the child each and every time they get a word right.
This is called positive reinforcement, and it will encourage your child to try to get that word over and over, and to get more and more words right.
This is an important part of making the activity seem fun, and make it something that they want to participate in, and it also encourages them to do their best.
When these sight words are so clearly obvious to you when you are teaching them, it can be easy to forget that the sight of these words is still relatively new to the preschooler.
So even if you’ve gone through some of the words several times, the kid may still forget occasionally.
That is why it’s so important that you are patient with them. It takes as long as it takes, and they will get there eventually.
8 Easy Ways to Teach Sight Words to Preschoolers
As promised, here is our list of 8 easy ways to teach sight words to preschoolers. The method for each way is described in full.
1. Play A Game With The Child
This is one of my favorite methods because it gets the kids involved right from the start.
You’ll also find out quickly if they understand what you are trying to teach them. If not, then you have an opportunity to correct their understanding before moving on.
I would argue that this is a key factor in any method that you use. The idea is to get the child engaged , and to see the activity as a fun activity, rather than as some kind of impossible test.
2. Read Children’s Books Aloud
Reading books aloud is another great way to help children learn new vocabulary. It helps reinforce the meaning of each word as well as provides opportunities to practice reading skills like fluency and comprehension.
Remember to point at each word as you go along so that the child learns the letters that match the sounds. You can also point at some of the words after each sentence and say “What’s that word?”.
All books aimed at children will naturally feature a lot of the most common sight words, so finding an appropriate book should be very easy. It also helps if the child is genuinely interested in the story.
If the child has a favorite story, start with that one to really get them excited. Or find ones centered around a favorite topic of theirs.
If the story is sufficiently simple, you could even read some of the words together.
3. Use Flashcards
Flashcards are a great tool to use when teaching young learners. They provide a visual aid while helping children remember the definition of each word. Tell the child what each word says, then ask them to repeat it back to you.
Later on, you can give them a memory test, and ask them if they remember what the words say.
You don’t have to go out and buy a fancy set of flashcards. Once you’ve Googled what all the sight words are, you can easily write them down in large, clear letters on a pack of plain index cards.
4. Write Down The Word For Them
Writing the word down is another effective way to help children learn sight words. When writing the word, make sure to write it down perfectly.
This will help them recognize the letter combinations later on, and it may even help them to learn to write these words down too.
You could write the whole list of words down, and ask them to point at which ones they know. When they get a word right, they get to show off and have bragging rights.
Any words that they don’t point to, you simply tell them what they are and ask them to use the word in the sentence. Later you can use the list to test their memory and understanding once again.
5. Ask Questions About The Word
Asking questions about the word reinforces learning. For example, you could ask them to volunteer sentences that use each word you discuss.
If they are able to provide a correct answer straight away, this is perfect because it clearly demonstrates that they understand the word.
If they don’t answer straight away, this is fine, just give them a few examples, and they will soon pick up.
The more examples, the better, because this serves to deeply embed the meaning of the words in their understanding.
6. Use Songs Or Rhymes
Songs and rhymes are excellent tools to help children learn new words. Songs and rhymes are usually short, so they are ideal for younger children who struggle with long stories.
Preschoolers tend to quickly get a hang of how a song or a rhyme works, and they will often try to guess the word.
If they were to guess a word and it is wrong, this should not be punished, you should simply say “No” and allow them to have another guess.
If the word that they suggest does rhyme but is incorrect, tell them that they are close, and encourage them to try again until they guess the correct word.
7. Play With Letter Magnets
Letter magnets are very easy to get hold of, and it’s somewhat more interactive than merely pointing at words.
All you have to do is tell the child what word you want them to make with magnets, and let them get to work on it.
Of course, this will require them having some familiarity with the words first, which can be achieved by carrying out one or more of the activities previously mentioned in this article.
8. Painting The Words
Once the child knows what one of the sight words looks like, you can ask them to paint the word for you in nice big letters. This is great for preschoolers because it doesn’t require the same level of dexterity as writing with a pen or pencil.
It’s also great for kids who aren’t as keen on reading books, because it’s a completely different activity and they can associate the activity with creativity and fun rather than as a hard test.
This will encourage them to volunteer answers rather than being too inhibited to act or get the answer wrong.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Do You Introduce Sight Words To Kids?
There isn’t really a right or wrong way to introduce sight words to kids. But one of the easiest and most common ways to do so is by reading with your child on a regular if not frequent basis.
Sight words always come up frequently in children’s books, and it is a nice way to spend time together with your child.
This also teaches the child the context in which these words are used, which is central to their understanding of the word, and teaches them how the same words can be used in different contexts.
What Is The Fastest Way To Teach Sight Words?
The more frequently a child encounters sight words, the faster they will learn them. Repetition is key here.
Activities such as reading together and memory games with flash cards, in combination with praise and positive reinforcement will encourage the child to spot sight words everywhere they go.
The key things to remember are that kids require repetition and patience to learn the sight words.
And because they are words that kids hear and speak every day, you don’t have to stress about teaching them the meaning of the words.
And the great thing about these 8 ways to teach sight words is that they don’t require any special learning materials or techniques, and you can carry most of them out with things you already have around the house.