Child practicing sight words while reading book

What Should I Do if My Child is Having Trouble with Sight Words?

Soon after your child learns the alphabet, he or she will begin learning their sight words. Sight words are commonly seen words that do not follow the typical rules of spelling, like does, can, and the. Because of this, they can be difficult for children to decode and are taught through memorization at school. Learning age appropriate sight words is vital for reading fluency. So what should you do if you notice your child isn’t catching on as quickly as they should be?

Practice with Flashcards

A tried and true method, practicing with flashcards is a simple way to commit sight words to memory. Try your best to not be too strict and stress your child out, as this will only hinder their progress. Start with a few words at a time and make it a low-stakes, daily practice.

  1. Choose 5 to 10 words for the week and write each one on a separate index card. 
  2. Pull the cards out at least once a day. You can do this two to three times a day for better reinforcement.
  3. Make the drill a simple part of your daily routine that already exists, like clean-up time or bath time. It only needs to last a few minutes.
  4. Praise them when they get the words right. Do not react negatively if they get it wrong. Positive encouragement is beneficial, such as, “Great try, let’s do it again later!” Trust the process; it will click eventually.

Use Fun Materials

Make writing sight words exciting by using fun materials like sidewalk chalk, shaving cream, magnetic letters, blocks, or sand. This would be a great way to reinforce the 5-10 flashcard words you’re concentrating on for the week.

  1. Present the materials and model proper expectations. For example, if using shaving cream, spray some on a tray and write words with your fingers. Show them that the shaving cream stays on the tray and doesn’t go on the couch, floor, or any other surface.
  2. Present one sight word and write it using the materials. Ask them if they can do it just like you.
  3. After they copy the word a few times, challenge them to write it from memory.
  4. Concentrate on one word at a time, initially. As they strengthen their skills, you can throw in review words and mix up the sequence.

Point Out Words in Book & in Public

As you read your nightly stories, point out sight words that you come across. You can pause and point at the word and see if they can read it independently. If they’re not quite ready for that,  read, point, and say, “Hey you know that word! That says the, doesn’t it?” Point these words out when you come across them in public, like at the grocery store or mall.

Sight Word Games 

There are all sorts of simple games you can print out for free or make yourself. Games are a great way to make word recognition a fun practice, like sight word Bingo or Go Fish. You can create a Bingo sheet with sight words and read them off as your child stamps their Bingo card.

Make the process of learning an enjoyable one and you will find your little ones eager to strengthen their skills. Do not make these practices a stressful time, as this will only harm your child’s progress. Remember that children learn at their own pace. For most, gentle and daily methods will yield positive, lasting results.

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