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Learn to Read: Sight Words

Sight words in rebus stories and activities
Beginning High Frequency Words Found in Bundles

Sight Word Definitions:
Sight Words are instantly recognizable and read without conscious effort. They include both high frequency and irregular words.
High Frequency Words are the words that are most common in the English language. High Frequency can also be irregular. Examples are: is, said, the, they.

Irregular Words are spelled irregularly. Irregular words can also be high frequency. Examples are: of, does, psychic, choir.

List of 41 most common unusually spelled words
Irregular words

Teaching icon Teach Teaching icon 2

Explanation Video for Teacher

Map sounds to letters when learning words.

– What are the individual sounds that make up the word?
– How is each sound represented by letters?
See Mapping Sounds to Letters

When many words are read automatically, fluency is developed and comprehension is boosted.

Teach Common sight words along with the skills in the phonics steps 1-10

Sight Words are words learners need to recognize instantly by sight (like identifying their own name).

It is important for beginning learners to start by learning a handful of the most common words.

Beginning High Frequency Words:  These are the first words learners need to know automatically. These are words that may or may not be irregular, but are so common we need to know them by sight. Say a word, figure out the individual sounds in the word, then map (connect) each sound to the letter(s) that represent it. See map sounds to letters below.
Beginning Sight Words Lists

Irregular Words:  Some of our oldest and most common words have changed through the centuries so the spelling and pronunciation no longer match (ie. said). These can be tricky since there are sounds being represented un unusual ways. However, the key is still to focus attention on the sounds in the word and what letters are representing them. For example the word “said” has 3 sounds /s/, /ĕ/, /d/. These sounds are represented by the letters s, ai, and d. It is unusual for ai to represent the /ĕ/ sound, but noticing how each sound is represented is key to remembering the word. See map sounds to letters below.
Big List of Common Unusual Words, Chunks and Schwa Words

Map Sounds to Letters

Map the sounds in the word to the letter(s) representing the sounds, even if it is not a letter combination that has been taught yet. Only an unusual sound/letter combination needs to be remembered “by heart.” Mapping the sounds to the letters is how we remember how to spell and what words look like. See example below:

Map Sounds To Letters examples

Be sure to reinforce what you know and are learning about words, for example:
Schwa Sound: Any vowel might say /ŭ/. Point out that this happens in many common words like: the, of, was, some, from…
Open Syllable: Many common words are open syllables where there is one vowel and it can escape so it says it’s name like: she, me, he, I, go, no….

Practicing Words With Flashcards

Working on new words (or sounds) with flashcards (Work on about 90% known words/sounds and about 10% new words/sounds.  We need to keep practicing the known words for weeks and months so they become an automatic part of our long term memory.)

Be sure to talk about each new word first! Practice on a beat:

3 Beats for new words:
Beat 1: Show Word
Beat 2: Teacher Says Word
Beat 3: Learner Says Word

3 Beats for known words:
Beat 1: Show Word
Beat 2: Pause
Beat 3: Learner Says Word

2 Beats for automatic words:
Beat 1: Show Word
Beat 2: Learner Says Word

Learn and practice sight words this way so that students are not verbalizing incorrect answers while looking at the word, not talking over the teacher, and giving student(s) a beat of think time. Encourage students to hold their answer in their heads until it is time to answer on the beat (and not before!)

General Strategies

Can use same strategies for Sounds and Chunks

Flashing Words for learners who struggle to move from sounding out words to reading words automatically.

Timing Students

Use spaced retrieval practice for memorizing. Use flashcards to have the learner “retrieve” the information. Practice for short periods of time and space them out! Practice a couple minutes many times each day rather than 15 minutes once a day. I used to have cards in the kitchen so my own kids could go through them quickly at meal and snack times. *Spaced retrieval has been proven to produce more long-lasting learning.

Key and Directions for Materials Key

Blue Heart: Beginning, grades K-1K-1 Beginning
Green Star: Growing, Grades 1-21-2 Growing
Pink Plus: intervention, challengeIntervention/Challenge

Bundle: Multiple types of materials (games, activities, stories…) bundled together.
Pack: Multiple pieces of the same type of material, for example a pack of books.

Directions for everything else:

More on the Directions Page

Sample Bundles

Sample Bundles contain samples of the stories, games, lists, fluency pyramids, activities, and more you will find in the practice section below.

Beginning Dolch Sight Word Bundle 1 REBUS.
Dolch List 6 Bundle

Practice Reading Practice Practice Reading

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  1. Faye Rhodes Faye Rhodes

    I have looked and looked for any more resources that are like the amazing one at the top of the page it has the caption “Beginning high frequency words”. Would you be able to direct me to where I might find it on your website?
    Thank you 🙂 Faye

    • Hi Faye!

      If you scroll down you will see “Sample Bundles” in purple lettering. Click on them to find two of the many bundles we have in our “Practice” area. The sheet at the top is pulled from one of the bundles. If you subscribe to the site you will have access to all of the practice materials which, in the case of sight words include 3 “Beginning Reader Sight Word Rebus Bundles” and 11 “Dolch High Frequency Sight Word Bundles.” The practice section also includes many other individual resources.

      Hope this helps! If not, feel free to email me at


      • Faye Faye

        Thank you so much! Found them! 🙂

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