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  • Writer's pictureJanay Neufeld

Sight Word Blog Series: #1 Why are Sight Words Important? + Free Sight Word Flash Card Printables

Updated: Oct 25, 2022

If you have a child in elementary school, you know how much teachers hammer sight words/high-frequency words. Why are sight words important? Is it causing stress and a big fight with your child each day at home? Or maybe you are unsure how to get them to stick or make them more fun at home. If so, please know you are not alone! And if so, this blog series about sight words is for you!

This blog will be a three-part series. This blog (#1) will describe sight words and why they are essential. Blog #2 will guide you through how to teach sight words at home, and blog #3 in the series will give recommendations for FREE sight word resources you can utilize at home! You can also download a FREE sight word list/free sight word flash card printables to work on at home according to your child's grade in this blog! So keep reading for some fun, FREE resources!

Also, watch for blogs 2 and 3 for more resources on how to ditch the tears and have fun working on sight words at home!

Sight words or High-Frequency words? What are they? What's the point?

Sight words fall into two categories. The first category is often referred to as high-frequency words because they are the most commonly used words in the English language. There are over 600,00 words in the English language, but surprisingly, only 13 words account for 25% of printed words, and 100 of those words account for about 50% of print.

That is terrific news! If kids can learn these 13 most commonly used words and eventually all 100, they will have a much easier time reading! Lack of knowledge of these frequently used words will result in fluency (reading speed, accuracy, and expression) issues, so the quicker and easier we can read these most frequently printed words, the better we can read.

The other category of sight words is non-phonetic words. These words do not follow the typical spelling or phonics pattern we teach students. Identifying the part of the word breaking the rule and talking about it is essential to learn them.

We want sight words to be words a student can look at and read automatically. Then when they go to read, they can easily read these commonly used words quickly without sounding out each word laboriously. In turn, they can comprehend what they read more efficiently and have much more success overall in their reading!

Sight Word Lists

The fantastic thing is that the data shows us exactly what words are most important to teach! There are many different sight word lists, but you will commonly see the Dolch Sight Words and Fry Sight words.

Fry Words and Dolch Words...What's the difference? Which sight word list is best?

Dolch words are a list of words created by an educator in the 1930s-40s named Dr. Edward William Dolch. He studied the most commonly occurring words in books for children during that era and came up with this list. The words contain 80% of the words you find in a children's book and 50% of words commonly found in adult writing. The lists are divided by grade level pre-k through 3rd grade, and one list contains a list of words with nouns. The Dolch list includes a total of 315 words.

Fry Words

This list is a little more modern as it was created initially in the 1950s by Dr. Edward Fry and then updated again in 1980. It was designed to help kids learn the top 1,000 most commonly used words. They are split into lists of 100. Therefore, the first hundred sight words are the most frequently used words in English (for grades 3-9).

If a child can master all 1,000 Fry words on the list, they will be able to read 90% of words found in any print (books, magazines, newspapers, websites, etc.)

As a reading tutor and educator of over ten years, I have found that I often pull from both lists, but I tend to use the more current fry list more. I like that they are grouped in lists of 100 words. I group the words for a student (only working on about ten at a time), and it's always fun to celebrate when they finish mastering a list. I say, "Wow, you now know 100 sight words," Or, "You have mastered 200 of the most commonly used words we see in books!" They always light up because 100, 200, 300, or more is a lot! Especially to a child! It helps them to see how far they have come and all they have accomplished!

Other Key Tips

I recommend working on no more than ten sight words at a time. Otherwise, it can be overwhelming for children, and it's best to work on mastering a few at a time and then moving on. It would be best to go back and assess every few months and ensure that the words stick. I test every three months with the students I tutor to ensure progress. Use the lists provided in this blog to assess. Keep the words your child can identify correctly and rapidly in a pile. Keep another pile for those they can read accurately but not automatically, and one for incorrect answers. This way, you can focus on those they need to work on recognizing quicker and those they guessed incorrectly.

Fun Sight Word Games to Play With Your Flashcards

If you downloaded the free sight word flashcards offered above. Please, don't use the flashcards in the traditional sense, and try to hammer the words into your child's brain! Just memorizing the words has been proven by the science of reading as an ineffective way to teach sight words. Instead, have fun with your child, discuss the words, point out unusual patterns, sort the words into ones that are alike, and talk about why. Kids love playing games, and you can quickly turn working on sight words into a game. Overall, there are endless possibilities. Have fun with it, and get creative! The more fun your child has, the more they will want to keep returning to their sight words and continue learning! Here are some ideas:

  • Print two copies of the sight word lists offered above on cardstock, choose about 4 or 5 words (make sure you have two of each word), flip them over and play sight word matching.

  • Play sight word tic tac toe. Write a sight word in each square. To secure that square, Your child must correctly read the sight word to secure that square child must correctly tell you the sight word. If they get it wrong, they lose their turn.

  • Write sight words onto each square of a hopscotch game and have your child read each word aloud as they hop through.

  • Have your child draw a picture or paint a picture representing a sight word, explain how it connects to the word, and then you can even have them write a sentence using the sight word to describe their picture.

Pictures a first grade student of mine drew. Her explanation of the pictures was, "Water running down a river," and "I said something to my friends."
  • Sight word hide and seek is a fun and easy way to work on sight words that your child will love! Write four or five different sight words on sticky notes, take some containers, bowls, or cups that are not see-through, and flip them over. Put one sight word, post it on each container and hide an object under one of them (while your child is turned around or hiding their eyes). Mix them all up and have your child guess which one the object is under, but they must read the sight word correctly before lifting it to reveal it!


  • Sight word hide and seek can be played another way! Hide sight word cards around a room. Allow your child to look and find the cards. As they do, have them call out the words as they see them. They will love it!

Are you still Feeling Overwhelmed by it All? Seek the Help of a Professional and Take Some of the Weight Off your Shoulders!

If you still feel overwhelmed or like it would give you peace of mind knowing your child is working with a professional each week to instill these reading foundations, please do not hesitate to reach out. I am always delighted to be a part of a child's reading journey, watch them excel, and gain confidence in their reading skills.

I have over eight years of experience helping children succeed in reading and beyond. All sessions are done online via Zoom from the comfort of your home! Click below to register for a FREE Reading Assessment and start the process of receiving weekly reading instruction catered to your child's specific needs.


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