Sight Words are a major new element of our Saturday Program in the 2021-2022 school year. Sight Words are high-frequency words that appear within the English language. Universally, there are two different main lists that are referred to; the Dolch and Fry lists. The Dolch word list comprises 220 high-frequency words [none of which are nouns unless they can be used as a part of speech] that were created in 1936. This word list is based on the words that are being read by students from Kindergarten to Grade 2. The Fry word list was created in 1957 and is a list of 1000 high-frequency words that does contain words that make up all parts of speech. It has been based on the reading materials from students in the US from Grades 3 to 9.
Sight Words, whilst being high-frequency, are not necessarily words that adhere to the phonetic rules that students are taught. For example, the words ‘the’ and ‘said’. Neither, have phonics rules that are applicable to them. So for students when they come across their word, although they may have a working knowledge of what each of the individual phonic sounds are, they can’t use these skills to decode the word. As a result, Sight Words should not ever be taught by sounding them out (which is the usual method children are encouraged to use when faced with an unfamiliar word). Instead, teachers use games and activities that focus on the rote learning of the word’s pronunciation and the shape of the word, so when they come across it, they recognize it immediately.
The OYIS Saturday Program has decided to implement a Sight Words element to all classes to be taught in conjunction with phonics. Our focus is on the Fry Sight Word List. The children will focus on one list of 10 words for 3-4 weeks (depending on the grade). These will form the weekly spelling tests for the Elementary students. The older students will also be working on practicing the use of Sight Words in sentences, as knowledge of the word, but unable to use it in a sentence means students only have a limited understanding. More meaningful understanding is created when students can use the new word correctly and independently in sentences.