How to Use Sight Words to Help Second-Graders Master Reading

These tools turn young children into fluent readers

teacher with elementary students
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Sight words stand out as one of the best ways to help second-graders enhance their reading skills. If you're a parent or a teacher with children who need to become better readers or have a learning disability in reading, consider using sight words as a tool to get them back on track.

It's common knowledge that students with learning disabilities in reading or dyslexia may have difficulty with basic reading skills or reading comprehension. While sight words won't eliminate all of their challenges, they can provide some much-needed relief to struggling readers.

Testing Can Identify the Reading Skills Children Need 

Teachers and parents can draw on a number of techniques to improve the reading skills of children with learning disabilities. But a method that works for one child may not work for another. Each student is unique, after all. To find the best strategy for your second-grader, teachers generally rely on assessment results and their own instructional experiences with your child. Educators then glean this information to develop an individualized education program for the student.

The IEP typically includes eight essential parts and outlines each child's unique learning goals and the support they need to succeed. Parents have a say in the execution of the IEP as well, but the plans are reserved for children with learning disabilities.

How Sight Words Can Help

If testing indicates that your child needs to become a better reader, sight words will likely come in handy. In the 1930s, Edward William Dolch, known as the father of sight words, developed a list of words that appeared frequently in children's literature. The list later appeared in his book "Problems in Reading" (1948), which aimed to improve literacy instruction.

Teachers continue to use Dolch's word list today. The following words appear routinely in second-grade reading material, such as primary picture books and schoolwork:

always, around, because, been, before, best, both, buy, call, cold, does, don't, fast, first, five, found, gave, goes, green, its, made, many, off, or, pull, read, right, sing, sit, sleep, tell, their, these, those, upon, us, use, very, wash, which, why, wish, work, would, write, your

As you can see, the Dolch words list includes prepositions, adjectives, verbs and other parts of speech. These words appear in all reading materials regardless of context. He left nouns off the list, as they're used to discuss specific topics, unlike conjunctions, pronouns, adverbs, and the parts of speech above. Parents and teachers can use a number of methods to teach sight words to young children.

Wrapping Up

Sight words have proven useful to students with and without learning disabilities. The Dolch word list includes a staggering 220 commonly used words. Because these words make up half of English print, learning the words is a great way for struggling readers to counter their challenges.

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