Sight Words: A Brief Explanation and Resources for Practice at Home
As children first start learning language, i.e. speaking, they learn single words, like “Mom” and “Dad,” by replicating the sounds they hear around them. After basic verbal skills are acquired, children begin the transition to reading and that requires a pretty big conceptual leap. Namely, that the relatively few words that they now know are made up of constituent pieces like letters and phonemes (e.g. the “ch” sound). As the child begins reading, she will encounter new words and must use her understanding of the building blocks of words, letters and phonemes, to decode these new words.
But there’s a big difference between decoding a new word, i.e. being able to say it, and understanding the meaning of the word, let alone understanding the meaning of a sentence or passage.
And this brings us to the idea of fluency. The faster and smoother a child can read the words on a page, the more enjoyable and less laborious reading is. This is important since the real grunt work of reading is comprehending (or understanding) the material. So, the less time and energy the child spends trying to decode words the more time and energy she can spend on comprehending a text.
The trouble with silent reading is that it’s hard to know how fluently a child is reading. So, teachers and parents use oral fluency tests as a way to measure and observe the ways in which a child reads in order to more effectively tailor reading instruction. These tests are administered regularly in just about every classroom in the US and much of the world.
An oral fluency test requires children to read aloud during close observation for one minute. By taking the number of words correctly read in a minute, minus the number of errors made, we can get a rough idea of how fluently a child reads. The average speaking rate for a child ranges from 120-190 words per minute (WPM) and oral fluency rates in or near that range (they’re usually a bit lower) accompanied by continual improvement and good comprehension serve as a fairly reliable benchmark of reading skills acquisition.
So how do we increase oral fluency, and therefore improve a child’s reading? The more words that a child can read and comprehend instantaneously the more WPM the child will be able to read on average. Just think about how much faster you can read the newspaper than you can read Anna Karenina - you know most of the words in the newspaper instantly, but it might take a little while to understand an extended metaphor about Matryoshka dolls.
To recap: Oral fluency is an indicator of reading fluency in general, and fluency is important because greater fluency leaves more time for reading comprehension, which is the ultimate goal of any reading. Sight words are an indispensible building block of fluency, so Famigo has collected a few resources for you to teach your child Sight Words in a fun an engaging fashion this summer.
Enjoy, and please don’t hesitate to reach out with comments, concerns, or suggestions to mattm[at]famigo[dot]com.
Sight Words Hangman: Like the name suggests, this is hangman with sight words. It’s a great opportunity to play a game with your child and help them get back into the swing of things before school starts again. Available for Apple. http://www.famigo.com/app/sight-word-hangman/
Learn Elementary Sight Words: This app has word selections for Kindergarden through 4th Grade, and at $0.99 is a real value for 5 years of learning. Available on Android and Apple.
MeMe Tales: This is a virtual library that publishes new books weekly and comes packed with a lot of good material. MeMe Tales does a great job providing positive reinforcement for reading books and is careful to pack their selections full of sight words. Available for Android and Apple. http://www.famigo.com/app/memetales/
Sight Words & Spelling with Pixiopop HD: There are three game modes; flashcards, spelling and quiz mode, which helps keep the game fresh and entertaining for the long haul. Available for Apple. http://www.famigo.com/app/sight-words-spelling-with-pixopop/
Simplex Spelling HD: Dolch Sight Words With Reverse Phonics: This is the heavy hitter of the bunch. A real deal educational tool that is sure to deliver tangible results. Available for Apple. http://www.famigo.com/app/simplex-spelling-hd-learn-how-to-spell-dolch-sight-words-with-reverse-phonics/
Flashcards By Me: Last, but certainly not least is this fantastic app which allows you to create your own language flashcards tailored to your child’s specific needs. A couple weeks ago I wrote some home curriculum ideas to use with this app that can be found on the Famigo Blog. Available for Apple. http://www.famigo.com/app/flashcards-by-me/