What Are Sight Words?

Sight words are non-phonetic words that are memorized. Usually they are Dolche sight words which were selected because they frequently appear in print. Memorizing them from a list often leaves the child confused. They will see “the” and read “and” because both words are 3 letters and on the same list. The National Institute for Literacy compiled over 100,000 studies and points out teaching them doesn’t work (pg 16). When I first met Zoey (not her real name) she constantly mixed them up. 
She knew her reading didn’t make sense so she became an expert at getting others to read to her. By second grade she was reading at Kindergarten level. Yet, at the end of second grade she was reading at fourth grade level and received this medal from Step Up For Students for most improved. Less than 1% of Step Up students get this medal and Zoey was one!

Naturally Developed Sight Words

Zoey developed sight words from sounding them out a few times while reading them in a game or story. These words, learned in context, all have meaning that aren’t interchangeable.  In order to avoid confusion I call them recognized words which are great for increasing reading speed. A necessary step in learning to read because it speeds up her reading so she can remember the beginning of the sentence by the time she gets to the end.  (See Fluency) She reads on her own now. She no longer needs to manipulate anyone to read to her. Rocket Phonics brought her to grade level and I believe it was having her brother Tony read better than her that really motivated her.
This award is just a reflection of her transformation and a life saved. Students who don’t read at grade level by third grade have a 50% unemployment rate. Zoey no longer has that destiny.

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