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What's Up With Sight Words?

While memorizing sight words may be easy for some children, others may struggle.  Sight words, also known as high frequency words,  are words that occur frequently in our written and spoken language. The Fry and Dolch word lists are two of the more commonly used sight word lists, and they can be found online.  Sight word  lists are created for students to memorize as part of their literacy instruction and are expected to be read with automaticity.  Reading with automaticity simply means that the word should be recognized automatically and effortlessly and add to the fluidity of reading. Because some learners struggle to memorize sight words, teachers have found different ways to teach them. Some  teachers organize these words according to their spelling patterns, and integrate them into their phonics instruction. For example, when teaching the digraph th, teachers  can teach the sight words that have th in their spelling, such as with, that and this. This method allows students to connect the rules of phonics to the learning of sight words, and it helps alleviate the randomness of memorization. The remaining words that do not follow the standard rules of phonics are sometimes referred to as irregular words or heart words.

The term heart words is sometimes used to describe words that have irregular spelling patterns. They are the  sight words that do not follow the standard rules of phonics and must be learned by heart.  Some examples of heart words are said, were, and the. After making a list of heart words, the first strategy is to determine which phonics rules apply to the words and which ones do not.  For example, the word said has four letters, and two of those letters (the s and d) follow standard phonics rules. Since these two letters say the regular sounds, the ai is the part of the word that must be memorized.  These two letters do not say the usual long a sound, but instead says the short e sound. They produce an irregular sound and are referred to as heart letters.  The heart letters are the part of the heart words that must be memorized. To promote the multi-sensory aspect of learning,  children sometimes underline the irregular parts of these words, highlight them, or draw hearts above the letters. Below are some examples.

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If your child is struggling to memorize lists of sight words, you may want to look at this method to make learning a little easier. 

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