Science of Reading Sight Words: A New Way to Teach High Frequency Words

Sight words, trick words, high frequency words… oh my! Wondering what they are and how they are different? Read below to learn more about new ways of teaching sight words based on the Science of Reading.

What are Sight Words?

Sight word is an umbrella term used to describe words we know automatically when we look at them. When you think about it, as an adult, do you tap out every word you come to? No, because you recognize them by sight. Although some words may follow phonetic patterns, some are known as “trick words” since parts of the word are irregular. By addressing this, we are teaching students to reduce the cognitive load to become fluent readers. 

How do Sight Words Help Reduce the Cognitive Load?

Cognitive load is all about the working memory resource used. The lower the cognitive load, the more room students have to apply skills. 

Why are Sight Words Important?

Identifying sight words makes us feel more comfortable and confident as readers. Reducing that cognitive load helps us to bring our attention to attacking unknown words. 

How Do You Teach Sight Words with the Science of Reading?

Let’s map! Is the word decodable or irregular? Teach students to find patterns with irregular words through mapping. For example, the word “they” has the /th/ sound in the beginning. The irregular part is the /ay/. Read below for strategies to teach sight words using the Science of Reading. 

5 Tips for Teaching Sight Words Using the Science of Reading

Below are 5 tips for teaching sight words.

1. Group Your Words

When teaching syllable types, include high frequency words that follow patterns within the unit!

2. Sequence Your Words

Did you know the first 13 words on the Fry Word List make up 25% of the words in children’s text? It is important to teach basic sight words first so students can reduce the cognitive load when reading phrases and sentences.

3. Teach Similar Words Together

Using the analogy strategy, we can teach like-words together. For example, you can teach “would”, “could”, and “should” together, as their word families are the same. 

4. Lose the Flashcards and Map Trick Words

When we ask students to read off of flashcards, we are not integrating our kinesthetic sense! 

Have students map the word by identifying which part does not follow the rules. For example, /w/ in “was” makes sense, but /as/ does not. Why write them? Science shows that when we are able to write these words by heart, we have truly mastered them!

5. Arm Tap and Sky Write

Want to take a break from writing? That’s fine! You can have students arm tap each letter in an irregular word, or write and say the letters in the sky to practice the same concept with variety.

In closing, we hope you found this post about what the science of reading suggests about teaching sight words helpful! If you did, then you may also be interested in these posts:

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