Sight words play a huge role in the development of reading skills for all children. When teaching sight words, we expect that children will learn the words that hit their current age and development.
As children grow and develop they will continue to add to their known sight words. These words function as building blocks. Meaning, words get increasingly more complex as they grow.
By instilling these basic sight words, we are giving them the foundational skills for reading comprehension. We are also giving them the skills to tackle reading on their own confidently and the ability to challenge themselves as readers as they grow up.
In other words, learning and recognizing sight words is a vital reading skill. In this article, you can find the recommended sight words for each grade, up to 5th grade.
Dolch Sight Words and Fry Lists
Two lists are referenced when identifying appropriate sight words, the Dolch and Fry list.
The Dolch sight word list and Fry sight word list were both developed through analyzing common words in children’s literature.
While “Fry” may sound delicious, Fry words are a modernized list of the 1,000 most common sight words developed by Dr. Edward Fry.
This list of words paired with Dolch words comprises of the most common words children should know. These lists are also often called high-frequency words.
Preschool Sight Words
There is no denying the excitement that accompanies hearing your child read a word for the first time.
Whether you are driving, reading a favorite book, or looking at a label to a favorite snack, the first time’s your preschooler identifies a word or number on their own is one of their first leaps into education!
Preschool sight words are simple words such as see, down, or here, but also include vowel identification and some two-syllable words.
When teaching your preschool sight words, there are a few things to be mindful of in the beginning.
First, consistently teach your child the alphabet. Whether through the traditional ABC song or a version with a different beat, it is important that the letters are shown in the correct order and that your child can start identifying letters correctly.
While they are learning the correct order of the alphabet and their letters, now is a good time also to teach Uppercase and Lowercase distinctions. Once your child has mastered their letters, you are ready to jump into teaching sight words!
Many parents understand the importance of helping their child read, but many don’t know how to start.
Supporting your preschooler’s language and literacy development is simple enough that you most likely are already doing many of the best practices when it comes to teaching sight words.
Sight Word Activities
First and foremost, continue to read aloud to your child. Fostering a love of reading through positive reinforcement is key to any child’s development.
Pick a time each day to snuggle up with your little one and read a couple of books. Point out sight words that they may know—consistently practicing this habit while reading will give your child the confidence to start seeking out those sight words on their own.
Another activity you can do with your child is through making it messy! Using shaving cream or whipped cream in a pan, ask your child to trace out letters and words using their fingers, laughter will undoubtedly follow and learning is a guarantee.
The introduction of sight words at the preschool level is a child’s first foray into the educational world, the most important thing you can be doing with your child during this time is to continue to make it light-hearted and fun.
Frustration can delay the understanding of these skills. When a child is feeling pressure or frustration, they tend to clam up and not process information as well.
As mentioned before, sight words are like building blocks. This means that as your child grows, their knowledge base of sight words will develop and increase in difficulty.
This is a great thing!
It is a mark that your child is learning and craving new information. Kid’s text difficulty will increase, but it is critical to remember to return to preschool sight words that your child may have struggled with for full comprehension.
Some common words on the list include: because, funny, any, know, and learn.
There are so many fun and effective ways to teach your first grader sight words, but it is also equally (if not more!) necessary to teach your child sight words in action.
Using tried and true methods (like the shaving cream example from above) is wonderful to encourage your child to “play” with the words. Until they can identify the word in the text, full comprehension hasn’t occurred.
Engage your children with age-appropriate reading opportunities.
Reading aloud is still an excellent activity, but seek out texts that your child will want to attempt to read independently as well.
Once in second grade, children must begin not only to be able to identify sight words but spell them correctly.
Paired with increasing difficulty these words may present a challenge because they must be taught as a complete word, avoiding breaking the word up to ease of learning.
Since many of the words on the second-grade list are homophones and can be challenging to pronounce, you can expect to see these words on spelling lists.
Some words on the list include there/they’ re/their, right, question, and sister.
While it is still important to encourage the understanding of the sight words on the second-grade list, a great way to encourage the retention of these words is through sentence scrambling.
Printing out a list of sight words, cutting them up into individual pieces, and having your child assemble sentences, will help them learn the words and how they function (correctly!) in a sentence.
Think about it like those old refrigerator magnets, but with the words they are currently learning.
Make it a game and see who can write the funniest, saddest, or silliest sentence.
Third graders will learn 300 sight words over the year.
Broken down over a traditional 9-month school year, that’s almost a word each day. Paired with learning math, science, social studies, and more, that can feel like a daunting task, yikes!
It is during third grade that the students must use these sight words in discussion. They must also analyze and clarify short articles and texts. Some of the words on this list include almost, real, above, and enough.
Many online resources encourage children to practice flashcards with sight words on them to promote retention. Depending on the type of learner your child is, you may find paper flashcards or Quizlet useful.
Other methods may include: having your child draw reference images to correspond with the sight word or using a word search.
Fourth and Fifth Grade
Fourth graders will continue to develop their phonetic skills with the list of 4th-grade sight words.
These words are prefix heavy and are easiest to learn when an understanding of prefixes occurs.
Word structuring is helpful for students at this age group, and one way to support that learning is to find common prefixes (such as re-) and help them define and understand the prefix before moving forward.
One way to do this is to create a connection to a prefix. This will help them understand and dissect words on their own.
For example, sub- means “below”, so discuss all of the words that your child knows that starts with “sub” (submarine, subway, subtract). Next, chat about what they think those words could mean now that they know “sub” means “below”.
Challenge them to find examples in real life. Using their knowledge of prefixes, they should be able to define the word.
As children age into fifth grade and beyond, the complexity of the required sight words will increase.
At this point in development, many will enjoy the challenge of reading novels on their own. This the best skill to improve reading comprehension.
If your child is seeking more challenging or genre-specific literature, consider consulting the Lexile score and popular novels for their age group. To find a Lexile score simply search for the title of the book + “Lexile”, the average fifth grader is reading around a 950L.
This will ensure that all literature is challenging while still appealing to their interests.
You can also support their sight word acquisition through word searches, games of hangman, and more.
Remember, sight words are to be observed, comprehended, and able to be applied.
Sight words are incredibly important. Giving your child the foundational skills early will set them up for success to become lifelong learners.
Using the Dolch and Fry lists paired with activities and support, your child will on their way to full reading retention!
As a parent, seeing complete lists of what your child should know and comparing it to the child sitting in front of you can either be a proud or stressful moment.
A healthy mix of “my child is doing so good right now” and “Oh my god, are they behind?” can be a scary place for a parent who is concerned about the academic development of their child.
Always remember when encouraging these words that they are laying the groundwork to be voracious lifelong learners.
Also, consider including additional support from ArgoPrep. These resources are challenging without being impossible and will give your child confidence in identifying and applying sight words!
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The best way to do this is to encourage them and keep it fun.
Consistently return the lower level lists to reinforce retention and focus on the words that are causing the most difficulty. Remember to always give them the positive reinforcement of the growth they’ve already made in the process.