“Sight words” is a common term in reading with various meanings.
Sight words can be the 100 most common words
When the term is applied to early reading instruction, it typically refers to about 100 words reappearing on almost any page of text.
According to Robert Hillerich, just three words I, and, and the account for 10 percent of all words in printed English. Dr. Edward Fry et al. (The Reading Teacher’s Book of Lists, 2000) state that the 25 most common words comprise about one-third of our written material, while the 100 most common words comprise about 50 percent of the material we read.
In addition to these words being very frequent, many cannot be “sounded out.” Children are expected to learn them by sight, i.e., recognizing them without any attempt to sound them out.
Sight words may refer to reading without hesitation
For others, the term means words recognized instantly, without hesitation or further analysis. Fluent reading requires that most words in a selection be sight words. The child must use other word recognition strategies for only a few words (5 to 10 percent). A piece that contains too many non-sight words is usually too difficult and frustrating.
Research has shown that reading improves as a reader’s sight word vocabulary grows.
Unlike 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 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 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.
Lists of sight words
The Dolch word list
Educator Dr. Edward William Dolch developed the list in the 1930s-40s by studying the most frequently occurring words in children’s books of that era. The list contains 220 “service words” plus 95 high-frequency nouns. These words comprise 80% of the words you would find in a typical children’s book and 50% of the words found in writing for adults (Wikipedia.org):
- Pre-K word list
a, and, away, big, blue, can, come, down, find, for, funny, go, help, here, I, in, is, it, jump, little, look, make, me, my, not, one, play, red, run, said, see, the, three, to, two, up, we, where, yellow, you (40 words)
- Kindergarten word list
all, am, are, at, ate, be, black, brown, but, came, did, do, eat, four, get, good, have, he, into, like, must, new, no, now, on, our, out, please, pretty, ran, ride, saw, say, she, so, soon, that, there, they, this, too, under, want, was, well, went, what, white, who, will, with, yes (52 words)
- 1st grade word list
after, again, an, any, as, ask, by, could, every, fly, from, give, going, had, has, her, him, his, how, just, know, let, live, may, of, old, once, open, over, put, round, some, stop, take, thank, them, then, think, walk, were, when (41 words)
- 2nd grade word list
always, around, because, been, before, best, both, buy, call, cold, does, don’t, fast, first, five, found, gave, goes, green, its, made, many, off, or, pull, read, right, sing, sit, sleep, tell, their, these, those, upon, us, use, very, wash, which, why, wish, work, would, write, your (46 words)
- 3rd grade word list
about, better, bring, carry, clean, cut, done, draw, drink, eight, fall, far, full, got, grow, hold, hot, hurt, if, keep, kind, laugh, light, long, much, myself, never, only, own, pick, seven, shall, show, six, small, start, ten, today, together, try, warm (41 words)
- Noun word list
apple, baby, back, ball, bear, bed, bell, bird, birthday, boat, box, boy, bread, brother, cake, car, cat, chair, chicken, children, Christmas, coat, corn, cow, day, dog, doll, door, duck, egg, eye, farm, farmer, father, feet, fire, fish, floor, flower, game, garden, girl, goodbye, grass, ground, hand, head, hill, home, horse, house, kitty, leg, letter, man, men, milk, money, morning, mother, name, nest, night, paper, party, picture, pig, rabbit, rain, ring, robin, Santa Claus, school, seed, sheep, shoe, sister, snow, song, squirrel, stick, street, sun, table, thing, time, top, toy, tree, watch, water, way, wind, window, wood (95 words)
List of Fry sight words
The Fry High-Frequency Instant Words is a more current list of words than the well-known Dolch list and was extended to capture the most common 1,000 words. Dr. Fry developed this expanded list in the 1950s (and updated it in 1980) based on the most common words to appear in reading materials used in Grades 3-9.
Dr. Fry espoused teaching children to read by having them learn the Fry 1,000 Instant Words in their order of frequency. He presents the words in sets of five as a “reminder only to teach a few words at a time.”
The Fry words are listed by the frequency with which they occur and broken down into groups of hundred. So the first hundred Fry words are the hundred most frequently occurring words in English. The first hundred make up about half of all written material, and the first three hundred make up about 65 percent of all written material. Learning all 1,000 words in the Fry list would equip a child to read about 90 percent of the words in a typical book, newspaper, or website.
The website SpellngCity.com recommend that:
- The first 100 Fry words should be mastered in 1st grade.
- The second 100 Fry words should be mastered in 2nd grade.
- The third 100 Fry words should be mastered in 3rd grade.
- The remaining Fry words (words 301-1000) should be mastered in the 4th – 5th grades.
- Words 1-100
|Words 1-25||Words 26-50||Words 51-75||Words 76-100|
- Words 101-200
after, again, air, also, America, animal, another, answer, any, around, ask, away, back, because, before, big, boy, came, change, different, does, end, even, follow, form, found, give, good, great, hand, help, here, home, house, just, kind, know, land, large, learn, letter, line, little, live, man, me, means, men, most, mother, move, much, must, name, need, new, off, old, only, our, over, page, picture, place, play, point, put, read, right, same, say, sentence, set, should, show, small, sound, spell, still, study, such, take, tell, things, think, three, through, too, try, turn, us, very, want, well, went, where, why, work, world, years.
- Words 201-300
above, add, almost, along, always, began, begin, being, below, between, book, both, car, carry, children, city, close, country, cut, don’t, earth, eat, enough, every, example, eyes, face, family, far, father, feet, few, food, four, girl, got, group, grow, hard, head, hear, high, idea, important, Indian, it’s, keep, last, late, leave, left, let, life, light, list, might, mile, miss, mountains, near, never, next, night, often, once, open, own, paper, plant, real, river, run, saw, school, sea, second, seem, side, something, sometimes, song, soon, start, state, stop, story, talk, those, thought, together, took, tree, under, until, walk, watch, while, white, without, young.
- Words 301-400
across, against, area, become, best, better, birds, black, body, certain, cold, color, complete, covered, cried, didn’t, dog, door, draw, during, early, easy, ever, fall, farm, fast, field, figure, fire, fish, five, friends, ground, happened, heard, himself, hold, horse, hours, however, hundred, I’ll, king, knew, listen, low, map, mark, measure, money, morning, music, north, notice, numeral, order, passed, pattern, piece, plan, problem, products, pulled, questions, reached, red, remember, rock, room, seen, several, ship, short, since, sing, slowly, south, space, stand, step, sun, sure, table, today, told, top, towards, town, travel, true, unit, upon, usually, voice, vowel, war, waves, whole, wind, wood.
- Words 401-500
able, ago, am, among, ball, base, became, behind, boat, box, bring, brought, building, built, cannot, carefully, check, circle, class, clear, common, contain, correct, course, dark, decided, deep, done, dry, English, equation, explain, fact, feel, filled, finally, fine, fly, force, front, full, game, gave, government, green, half, heat, heavy, hot, inches, include, inside, island, known, language, less, machine, material, minutes, note, nothing, noun, object, ocean, oh, pair, person, plane, power, produce, quickly, ran, rest, road, round, rule, scientists, shape, shown, six, size, special, stars, stay, stood, street, strong, surface, system, ten, though, thousands, understand, verb, wait, warm, week, wheels, yes, yet.
- Words 501-600
anything, arms, beautiful, believe, beside, bill, blue, brother, can’t, cause, cells, center, clothes, dance, describe, developed, difference, direction, discovered, distance, divided, drive, drop, edge, eggs, energy, Europe, exercise, farmers, felt, finished, flowers, forest, general, gone, grass, happy, heart, held, instruments, interest, job, kept, lay, legs, length, love, main, matter, meet, members, million, mind, months, moon, paint, paragraph, past, perhaps, picked, present, probably, race, rain, raised, ready, reason, record, region, represent, return, root, sat, shall, sign, simple, site, sky, soft, square, store, subject, suddenly, sum, summer, syllables, teacher, test, third, train, wall, weather, west, whether, wide, wild, window, winter, wish, written.
- Words 601-700
act, Africa, age, already, although, amount, angle, appear, baby, bear, beat, bed, bottom, bright, broken, build, buy, care, case, cat, century, consonant, copy, couldn’t, count, cross, dictionary, died, dress, either, everyone, everything, exactly, factors, fight, fingers, floor, fraction, free, French, gold, hair, hill, hole, hope, ice, instead, iron, jumped, killed, lake, laughed, lead, let’s, lot, melody, metal, method, middle, milk, moment, nation, natural, outside, per, phrase, poor, possible, pounds, pushed, quiet, quite, remain, result, ride, rolled, sail, scale, section, sleep, smiled, snow, soil, solve, someone, son, speak, speed, spring, stone, surprise, tall, temperature, themselves, tiny, trip, type, village, within, wonder.
- Words 701-800
alone, art, bad, bank, bit, break, brown, burning, business, captain, catch, caught, cents, child, choose, clean, climbed, cloud, coast, continued, control, cool, cost, decimal, desert, design, direct, drawing, ears, east, else, engine, England, equal, experiment, express, feeling, fell, flow, foot, garden, gas, glass, God, grew, history, human, hunting, increase, information, itself, joined, key, lady, law, least, lost, maybe, mouth, party, pay, period, plains, please, practice, president, received, report, ring, rise, row, save, seeds, sent, separate, serve, shouted, single, skin, statement, stick, straight, strange, students, suppose, symbols, team, touch, trouble, uncle, valley, visit, wear, whose, wire, woman, wrote, yard, you’re, yourself.
- Words 801-900
addition, army, bell, belong, block, blood, blow, board, bones, branches, cattle, chief, compare, compound, consider, cook, corner, crops, crowd, current, doctor, dollars, eight, electric, elements, enjoy, entered, except, exciting, expect, famous, fit, flat, fruit, fun, guess, hat, hit, indicate, industry, insects, interesting, Japanese, lie, lifted, loud, major, mall, meat, mine, modern, movement, necessary, observe, park, particular, planets, poem, pole, position, process, property, provide, rather, rhythm, rich, safe, sand, science, sell, send, sense, seven, sharp, shoulder, sight, silent, soldiers, spot, spread, stream, string, suggested, supply, swim, terms, thick, thin, thus, tied, tone, trade, tube, value, wash, wasn’t, weight, wife, wings, won’t.
- Words 901-1000
action, actually, adjective, afraid, agreed, ahead, allow, apple, arrived, born, bought, British, capital, chance, chart, church, column, company, conditions, corn, cotton, cows, create, dead, deal, death, details, determine, difficult, division, doesn’t, effect, entire, especially, evening, experience, factories, fair, fear, fig, forward, France, fresh, Greek, gun, hoe, huge, isn’t, led, level, located, march, match, molecules, northern, nose, office, opposite, oxygen, plural, prepared, pretty, printed, radio, repeated, rope, rose, score, seat, settled, shoes, shop, similar, sir, sister, smell, solution, southern, steel, stretched, substances, suffix, sugar, tools, total, track, triangle, truck, underline, various, view, Washington, we’ll, western, win, women, workers, wouldn’t, wrong, yellow.
Teaching sight words
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 is through language experience stories. Many of the words in these stories will be from the Dolch and Fry lists. Another popular way is to use sight words flashcards.