Should You Teach Sight Words to Your Beginning Readers? Part 1

Should you start teach sight words to your child when he or she is beginning to learn to read? There is a lot of debate about this topic.  Many people think that the English language is so difficult to learn that they must teach sight words or children will not learn to read well.  Is that true?  Yes—and—No!

It is true that if you are teaching reading by a whole word method, then you must teach many sight words. But—if you teach reading using a strong phonetic reading program, then you will not need to teach very many words as sight words. Why not? Because most sight words are partly or completely decodable when students learn the phonetic code of the English language.

Most people who teach whole word reading do not understand the phonetic structure of the English language and how it works, so they are unable to explain why a word is spelled a particular way. English borrows words from many languages and some foreign spellings are irregular. Older students should learn about word origins which will help them with spelling these irregular words.

However, if beginning readers learn not only the sounds of the alphabet, but also the additional 44 letter-combinations, they will be able to read very well, including most sight words.

We’ll talk about teaching sight words a little more next week.