Sight words are the words that are recognized instantly, without hesitation or further analysis. Fluent reading requires that most of the words in a selection be sight words. For a few of the words (5 to 10 percent), the child needs to use other word recognition strategies. A selection that contains too many difficult (nonsight) words is usually too difficult and frustrating.
The table below illustrates 220 basic sight words that students should know. These words are divided into groups according to their difficulty. One way to learn sight words is by actually reading stories. Basal readers are written so that sight words appear many times in context. Another natural way to expose children to sight words is through language experience stories. Many of the words in these stories will be from the sight word list. Dyslexic children often need other direct approaches to strengthen their sight vocabulary.
Unlike some other languages, written English has an inconsistent phoneme-grapheme relationship, or spelling pattern. The relationship between the letter and its sound equivalent is not always predictable. The letter a, for example, is given a different sound in each of the following typical first-grade words: at, Jane, ball, father, was, saw, and are. Another example of this complexity is the phoneme of the long i, which has a different spelling pattern in each of the following words: aisle, aye, I, eye, ice, tie, high, choir, buy, sky, rye, pine and type. To further complicate the problem of learning to read English, many of the most frequently used sight words in first-grade books have irregular spelling patterns.
220 Basic sight words