Sight words and highfrequency words

I have just been hired to substitute for a semester in a first grade classroom since a teacher has taken a short leave of absence. I know my students are beginning readers, and I heard that sight words and high-frequency are important to their development. I wanted to know what sight words and high-frequency words are, why they are important to their reading, and how I should teach them.

Sight words and high-frequency words are necessary for early readers to learn because these are the words used most often in reading; these words account for 60% of most print. Sight words are a part of vocabulary that are immediately recognized in their entirety rather than requiring word analysis. By teaching children these words by sight saves them the trouble of attempting to sound them out; this is helpful because many of these words do not follow regular phoneme patterns, such as: some and are. Some other examples of sight and high-frequency words are: the, that, him, and also.

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Children are exposed to sight words and high-frequency words everyday, whether it is at home, in the classroom, or reading signs on the street. These words are also best exposed through literacy. Reading children’s books is one of the most successful ways for children to learn these important words. Since most first graders are unable to read an entire book indepently, reading to them numerous times a day or week can be beneficial in teaching them sight and high-frequency words. The leading types of books for doing this are predictable books, caption books, and label books.
Students learn patterns in context plus vocabulary through reading predictable books. A few examples of predictable books are: If You Give a Mouse a Muffin by Laura Numeroff, Chicken Soup with Rice by Maurice Sendak, and Brown Bear, Brown Bear by Bill Martin. After reading a book such as Brown Bear, Brown Bear you could make a worksheet that involves children’s comprehension of the literacy used. For example you could have your students fill in these blanks, “Brown Bear, ____________ Bear What Do You See? I see a ___________ bird looking at me.” You can also use caption books, and label books in this way to benefit your students learning of sight words and high-frequency words. Although when using these books, it is important to make sure that your children are not just looking at the pictures or memorizing the text. You can assess them on this by covering up the pictures and showing them the words. Remember your goal as a teacher is for your students to become independent readers.
When teaching these words, they should be taught together in isolation and in context. By teaching them both ways, students see how each word is formed and how it is used. When presenting them individually you can also introduce words with similar spelling patterns. For example, if you were giving a brief lesson on the word can, you could also present the word man. Then you could have the students assist you in making up a paragraph that incorporates both new words. Doing this gives children a better understanding of these new words.

As you can see, sight words and high-frequency words are very important to children’s growth in the literacy process. It is necessary to incorporate them into your teaching everyday through books, language, and lessons. Understanding these words will help students continue progressing on their road to learning literacy.


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