Sight words, often called high frequency sight words, are commonly used words that young children are encouraged to memorize as a whole by sight. This reading technique is taught so that children can automatically recognize these words without having to use any decoding strategies.
Sight words account for a large percentage (up to 75%) of the words used in beginning children’s print materials. The advantage for children being able to recognize sight words automatically is that a beginning reader will be able to identify the majority of words in a beginning text before they even attempt to read it; therefore, allowing the child to concentrate on meaning and comprehension as they read without having to stop and decode every single word. Advocates of whole-word instruction believe that being able to recognize a large number of sight words gives students a better start to learning to read.
Recognizing sight words automatically is said to be advantageous for beginning readers because many of these words have unusual spelling patterns, cannot be sounded out using basic phonics knowledge and cannot be represented using pictures. For example, the word ”was” does not follow a usual spelling pattern, as the middle letter ”a” makes an /ɒ~ʌ/ sound and the final letter ”s” makes a /z/ sound, nor can the word be associated with a picture clue since it denotes an abstract state (existence).
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