If your child is learning to read, it is important that they quickly build a bank of commonly used words that they can recognise and read. Schools give these words various names (for example, high-frequency words, tricky words, camera words etc), but for the purpose of explaining what they are and how to best teach them, I am going to refer to them as “sight words”.
What are sight words?
Sight Words are frequently used words that children should learn to recognise and read during the first years of school.They are both words that are phonetically regular (you can blend the sounds to read them, for example, “and” and “this”) and words that are not (for example, “once”).
Why is it important for your child to learn “sight words”?
The more words a child can memorise and read by sight, the more fluent reading will become; they will rely less on decoding strategies (blending each sound) to read individual words. This will enable a child to concentrate more on what is actually happening in the story/text rather than being limited by having to decode each word.
The best way to teach sight words to a young chid is to select the sight words that are actually in the readers/books they are reading. They will not only learn them quicker, but they will quickly move up the reading levels.
What other skills should my child be able to do?
Your child should be able to recognise letters and digraphs (two letters that make one sound,for example, “sh”, “th” and “ch”) and blend sounds together to read words. This is a very important first step to reading. If you think your child needs to learn these skills, here are two links for you:
Recognising letters and blending sounds
Reading words with digraphs
How to use your School Start Buddy to teach sight words
The School Start Buddy comes with blank cards for writing sight words from your child’s reader/book on. This makes learning sight words far more effective because your child is actually learning to read the words they are more likely to use, rather than a random list of words. I will explain a simple 10 minute activity you can regularly do with your child. The best thing about this activity is that it also develops other essential reading and writing skills at the same time!
How long should my child do this activity for?
I would do this activity with your child two or three times a week until they can read around 50-100 sight words. By this time your child should be reading less predictable readers/books with several sentences on each page.