What are Sight Words and Why do we Teach Them? …and how can you help at home?

Sight words are those most common and frequent words used in our everyday reading and writing.  Amazingly, 50% of our written material is made up of 100 of these most frequently used words.  They are service words which hold ideas together, there is no picture attachment.  They are best learned by sight, not by sounding out.  Learning these words by sight helps readers to maintain speed and fluency by not getting ‘caught up’ on meaning.  They are important for early readers to learn.

In grade two, we expect that students have mastered the first 100 sight words.  They should not have to use any reading strategies to ‘sound’ them out.  They should read them with speed and accuracy.

There are a lot of great ideas for helping students with their sight word acquisition.  I have two favourite games that are simple to use in the classroom and at home:


Everyone loves to play GO FISH!  All you need to do is print out your Sight Words on card stock, or glue them onto a deck of cards.  You may even come up with your own way to create your game cards.

Play this with two or more players. Use the words that you are working on (choose about 50 words). Deal five cards (face down) to each player. Place the rest of the cards in a draw pile (face down). Have the players remove of the matching cards and place them face up so everyone can see them. Have one person start the game. Have the first player choose a word that he or she has in his hands and ask another person, “Do you have the word …”______” (you can havev children say and spell to practice spelling as well)? If the player that was asked has the card, he or she hands it to the asking player. If the person that was asked does not have that word, he or she will say, “Go Fish!”.  The asking player will then take a card from the draw pile. If the first player draws the word they has asked for from the pile, he or she will get to keep that card to make a pair, and take another. If the asking player does not draw his or her word, he or she will keep the new word and the next player can taker their turn. If anyone runs out of cards, he or she can take a card from the draw pile. Repeat the game until all the words have been found. The player with the most matching sets of words wins the game.


This game is really simple because you can put your Sight Words on just about anything.  In class, I like to write the Sight Words on jumbo sized popsicle sticks and put them in a cup.  You can also glue your words to seasonally themed playing cards.

Mix up the cards and put them all in the can or face down. In turn, each student picks a card and reads it out loud. If the card is read is correctly the player can keep the card, and it is the next student’s turn. The object is to have the most cards at the end of the game. “POW” is written on some cards.( I also like to add a few cards that say, “Go again!”) When a student chooses “POW!” he or she has to read “POW!” in a loud voice and put ALL of his or her own cards back in the can. The play continues with the next student until all of the cards or sticks are drawn from the pile.  There will be lots of laughing and anybody can win, not just the best reader, because of the element of chance in the game. The game ends when all cards are gone.


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