Sight words, also known as high-frequency sight words, are commonly used words that young children should memorize as a whole by sight as a means of automatically recognizing the words in print without requiring any strategies to decode them. They started being used widely after the whole language, which is another similar method, fell out of favor with the education establishment.
The term sight word should not be confused with the term sight vocabulary, which is defined as a person’s own vocabulary that the person recognizes from memory without requiring them to decode for understanding.
These words account for at least 75% of the words that are used in beginning children’s print materials. The advantage of using such words is that students can recognize them automatically before they even attempt to read them. Hence, the child can concentrate on the meaning and comprehension of the text as they read without needing to stop and decode every single word. However, there are certain researchers who say that there are 2 significant problems with such words:
- Memorizing sight words is quite labor-intensive, needing them on average 35 trials per word
- Teachers who withhold phonic instructions and instead rely on teaching sight words make it harder for children to gain basic word-recognition skills that are needed by the end of grade three and which can be used over a lifetime of reading.
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