Let’s talk about decoding sight words.
I know. You are not a teacher. But don’t worry; I’ve got you. Let’s break down how to decode (sound out) sight words with your Kindergartener, so it is doable.
Decode means sounding out words. We will help our child sound out their sight words so that those words eventually become automatic.
What in the world am I talking about?
The first step of decoding is stretching out the word to hear each sound within the word. The idea is to see which sounds our children can identify within the word, which helps move beyond memorization.
This post, along with an IGTV video with my friend, Tavia from Young Learning, will set you up for success when helping your child read and write sight words at home.
We even have a how-to decode sight words printable that will guide your conversations. PROMISE ME THAT YOU WATCH THE VIDEO AND READ THIS POST FULLY TO USE WITH THE DOWNLOAD. This is why it is listed at the bottom of this post. (wink, wink)
RELATED: WONDER: Playing to Learn is your online course to pave the path with helping children at home.
What are sight words?
Sight words can be confusing because they’re also called high-frequency, lightning, snap, popcorn, and so on, but there is a difference.
A sight word is a word that can be recognized automatically and effortlessly, whereas high-frequency words are words that occur most often in print (75% of printed words are high-frequency words). The goal is to help our children turn these high-frequency words into sight words.
With me still?
Sight words can be easily sounded out, but many of them tend to have one sound that can confuse our children.
As a parent, you will likely see these words assigned on spelling lists. The problem with spelling lists is that they traditionally rely heavily on memorizing words based on their shape and letter order.
RELATED: What is the Science of Reading? Read this article from Reading Rockets.
Your child has a sight word list. What’s next?
If you have a school-aged child, they will likely have a few sight words to practice at home.
This task can feel overwhelming for us as parents. We have dinner to make and soccer practice to get to before sundown. We are also trying to value free play at home and manage multiple aged children.
With this, we make a quick attempt to help our children memorize how to spell their sight words – however, memorizing sight words is not setting children up for success. Let me say that again, memorizing sight words is not setting children up for success.
RELATED: Want some fun activities to help your Kindergartener with sight words? We have them!
Memorizing a sight word is the same as remembering a shape.
Let’s take a look at the word put.
When we show our children the word put on a notecard, they memorize the shape of the word.
Over time, children can quickly recall the word, but when they see the word put in all capital letters (such as PUT), they may not see it as the same word. The word pat may also be mistaken as put because it has a similar shape. Come and came is another example of two words that are easily misread based on their shape.
We can do better than teaching our children to read and write based on memorizing the shape of words.
RELATED: This is the collection of Kindergarten read alouds you need!
Why is decoding (sounding out) words important?
We want to help early learners understand that words are made up of individual sounds that the child has already learned.
That way, children can use those sounds to read and write.
Remember that we read larger words over the years, and we want children to have a solid foundation to build upon as they continue to develop.
RELATED: Take a look at these Kindergarten activities!
Here are the steps to practice spelling a sight word.
Remember! You can also watch our IGTV to pull this all together.
- The adult says the sight word. The child repeats the sight word.
- Together stretch out the word using a rubber band, hair tie, or slinky.
- Adult says, “Now, let’s count the sounds we hear.” Child says the sounds as you put a finger up for each sound.
- Place small objects (counting bears, legos, mini erasers) in boxes on paper for each sound heard.
- Repeat the sounds as you tap each object in the squares.
- Adult says, “Your word this week is ______. There are ____ sounds in the word _____.”
- Adult touches the first object and identifies the sound. Adult says, “This is the ____ sound. Do you know the letter that represents this sound?
- The adult then writes the letter.
- The adult and child do this together for every sound they hear in the word.
*If the sound is irregular, let them know! Say, “You’re right! that is usually the letter ___, but this is a little different in the word, ____. Here, the sound is actually the letter ______.”
- Once all letters have been written, have your child tap each letter, say its sound, then read the word.
- To end, have your child spell and say the word.
We do not want to do the entire collection of words in one day. That is too many, and children may shut down refusing. Too many words may create frustration for YOU and YOUR CHILD.
We can make an impact in small doses!
Try decoding one or two words at a time, and then stop before your child grows tired.
What’s next after learning how to decode and spell a sight word?
We suggest using one of these sight word activities after your child has had a chance to practice their words this way.