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Learning Sight Words


by Lynn Maslen Kertell


Sight words are words that appear over and over in the English language. Some of these words can be sounded out, but many cannot. When children can recognize these words immediately “on sight,” their reading speeds up and they gain fluency. This makes the entire reading experience more enjoyable and successful. Therefore, it is important for your child to recognize and become fluent with sight words.


The typical way to teach sight words is with flash cards and drilling. While this is helpful, there are more gentle ways for kids to learn sight words that feel “naturally occurring” during the reading process.


  • Sight words that are phonetic. Many sight words can be sounded out. Words such as and, in, but are sight words. Knowing them “on sight” will make reading easier and faster. Let kids sound them out, and soon they will be memorized and known “on sight.”
  • Sight words that are almost phonetic. Some sight words are not actually phonetic, but have enough clues that kids can guess. Was, saw, to, is are such words. If you sound these out, you will discover they are not truly phonetic. However, they are close enough for many kids to guess. Repetition will help kids memorize these words until they are known on sight.
  • Sight words that cannot be sounded out. Are, two, the, cannot be sounded out. Kids may be able to guess from the context and sentence structure. Sometimes they simply have to be memorized through repetition.


Bob Books Sight Words 1 is especially useful for children who are learning to read with phonics. They are based around phonics principles plus 30 sight words. Your child will be able to sound out all words except the sight words introduced in each book. This is a great confidence builder as they work to memorize sight words. Bob Books Sight Words 2 introduces 30 additional sight words in stories with longer and more complex phonics words.  


Flash cards are a common way to practice all sight words. Be sure to keep sessions short and fun. Kids will learn their sight words with plenty of repetition and the desire to keep reading.


Best wishes for a great experience for you and your young reader!


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