Reading is one of the most important skills a child will ever learn. To live a productive life reading, literacy- they are vital! In most schools, children must be able to read simple sentences and stories by the end of first grade. By third grade, they should be able to read almost any kind of text. They should also be able to “sound out” regularly spelled words and read basic, common sight words.

Sight word acquisition is an important building block in the construction of a child’s ability to read. Once able to read all of the words on sight word lists, readers can access up to 75% of what is printed in almost any piece of children’s literature. There are several proven techniques that can be used to teach sight words. The more one-on-one time a child has learning and practicing sight words, the greater the chances are of integrating them into long-term memory.

The Science Behind It

We start to talk before we can read, so hearing words, and getting familiar with their sounds, is obviously important. But in order to read, and especially in order to read quickly, our brains have to “see” words too. This is exactly what Maximilian Riesenhuber, a neuroscientist at Georgetown University Medical Center, found in an intriguing brain-mapping study published in the Journal of Neuroscience. 

The scientists recruited a small group of college students to learn a set of 150 nonsense words. They imaged their brains before and after the training.

Before they learned the words, their brains registered them as a jumble of symbols. After they were trained to give them a meaning, the words looked more familiar. They were similar to everyday words (such as: car, cat or apple)!

The difference in way the brain treated the words involved “seeing” them rather than sounding them out. Instead of taking time to sound out each letter, the brain trains itself to recognize groups of letters it frequently sees together. C-A-R for example dedicates a set of neurons in a portion of the brain that activates when these letters appear.

Sight word recognition improves reading fluency and automaticity. It allows the reader to focus their efforts on the more difficult task of reading comprehension.

Students become efficient and confident readers. Their attention can now center on decoding words that carry meaning to the text. This allows them to focus their efforts on “reading to learn” rather than “learning to read.” As a result, their ability to verbally recall and organize information from text improves by a lot. These students not only begin to develop reading comprehension skills, but also become more accurate, detailed, and organized when recalling information.

Incorporating Sight Words Into Play

Once children have had the opportunity to study new sight words, games are a fun, hands-on way to help strengthen their retention. They can even help them learn new sight words. Board games are available in the market exactly for this purpose! They are also easy to create and can be modified based on the particular sight words a child is learning at the time.

Wordo—Played just like the game Bingo, but this version uses sight words instead of numbers on a grid card.

Concentration—Sight word concentration cards can easily be made using index cards. Write each word on two cards, shuffle and lay face down to play.

Word Searches—Create word searches featuring sight words or use one of the many available on the Internet.

Go Fish— Go Fish cards can easily be made using index cards. Simply write each word on two cards, shuffle and deal to play.

Letter Magnet Spelling— To reinforce sight word spelling, provide the child with a set of letter magnets and a metal surface. Call out sight words and ask the child to use the magnets to spell the word.

Wise Alec Junior – There are 4 games in 1 box and each game helps support sight word “seeing” by using sight words with pictures.

Erudition.  Good game for kids who like flash cards.

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