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Should We Practice Sight Words With Preschoolers?

Should We Practice Sight Words With Preschoolers?

Preschool: a place for show & tell, songs, coloring books, and learning how to read. If you’re the parent or educator of beginning readers, you might be wondering: should we teach reading, and more specifically, “sight words” in preschool? And if you’re entirely new to preschool education, it’s just as acceptable to ask: what are sight words?


Today, we’ll use experts’ advice to answer these questions, offer strategies for practicing sight words, and outline the best sight words for preschool and kindergarten classrooms.

practicing sight words

What Are Sight Words?

Sight words can be recognized instantly: they’re simple words that a reader can “see” and pronounce without sounding out or guessing. An early reader’s set of sight words will vary slightly, as every preschooler or kindergartner is exposed to different books and varied sets of sight words. That said, most sight words are high frequency words that appear regularly in many children’s books. Think “the,” “a,”, “I,” “to,” and other words that aren’t easily sounded out but appear regularly in decodable books.


When to Teach Sight Words

Before practicing sight words with preschoolers, they should be showing signs of reading readiness:

  • Holding books and turning their pages correctly, from left to right
  • Ability to listen to a story, answer questions about it, and retell a familiar narrative in their own words
  • Alphabet knowledge: ability to recognize and sound out most letters
  • Phonemic awareness!


The final point is especially important. Learning to read is not simply a matter of practicing sight words. Before presenting a list of words to your preschooler or kindergartner, they should have a solid foundation in phonemic awareness: the ability to sound out the individual sounds in words. A preschooler who can blend simple sounds - /c/ /a/ /t/ to produce the word “cat,” for example - may be more prepared to memorize a list of preschool reading words than a kindergartner who is not as advanced in their phonemic awareness. In the realm of sight words, patience is key: your kindergartner may be more advanced than your struggling first grader, and this is simply part of the reading journey - not a determinant of either child’s long-term reading success.

practicing sight words with preschoolers

What Are the Best Sight Words?

With time and exposure to more books, young readers will develop their phonemic awareness. They’ll be able to count syllables in words, rhyme, and identify the first and last sounds in a word. At this point, you can craft or modify a list of the best sight words. These lists vary among reading experts and can also be modified to include high-frequency words in any decodables you plan to read with your child. That said, some of the best kindergarten sight words include:

  • Can
  • Am
  • Are
  • At
  • Do
  • For
  • Go
  • Has
  • Have
  • He


…Just to list a few! Note that these lists can be modified and expanded based on the needs and skills of the child. For pre-K or “pre-readers,” Readsters recommends these preschool reading words:

  • The
  • A
  • I
  • To
  • And
  • Was
  • For
  • You
  • Is
  • of


Like any skill, a mix of repetition and learning new concepts is essential. If your child is reading-ready, practicing sight words on a daily basis will enhance their reading fluency, phonemic awareness, and overall confidence.

Should We Practice Sight Words With Preschoolers


  • Sight words can be used to increase reading fluency in a child who is ready to read.
  • Signs of reading readiness include understanding how to hold and read a book from left to right, alphabet knowledge, ability to listen to and retell stories, and phonemic awareness.
  • Phonemic awareness is an especially important foundation to establish before practicing sight words with preschool- and kindergarten-aged students.
  • The best sight words for early readers will vary depending on their skills and access to decodable readers, but many experts offer lists of the best high-frequency words for pre-readers.

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3 Easiest Ways to Teach Sight Words to Kindergarten Students

3 Easiest Ways to Teach Sight Words to Kindergarten Students

ways to teach sight wordsThe ability to read is a life-changing skill. It opens up new worlds, new opportunities, and new relationships. Research has shown that children who have strong reading skills are more likely to succeed in school, to start their own business, and lead happier lives. Sight words are the most important tool to build vocabulary and to acquire reading fluency. They account for 75% of English language usage. They are also the words that we use most often. Learning the easy ways to teach sight words is essential to the teachers that helps the kids to master reading skills.


However, not all methods of teaching sight words are the same. So which one is best for you?


You might want to use a five-minute drill every day, or you may prefer to have your child learn them as part of a story. The choice is up to you!

3 Easiest Ways to Teach Sight Words to Kindergarten Students

If you have a child in kindergarten who is just starting to learn sight words, then there are three easy ways to teach them the most important words.


One way is to dedicate five minutes of each day to you read five sight words to your child. This is a great way to maintain their interest and keep them practicing throughout the day. Another option could be to teach them as part of a story. For example, you could use Dr. Seuss’ books or any other picture books that contain rhyming sentences. This way they can learn the wording and spelling of a word at the same time. You may also want to take some time each day to read with your kids and point out new sight words as you go along. This will help them to remember what they've learned and keep their interest in reading high!

Teach them as part of a story

One way to teach sight words is by using them in a story. This helps kids learn the words naturally, because they are woven into the text and not just presented as flash cards. You might want to read your child’s favorite book and stop when you come across a word that needs to be taught.


For example, if I were reading The Cat in the Hat with my child, and we came across the word “hat”, I would stop reading the story for a second and ask my child what the word means. If they can’t answer, I would go back and tell them that it means something a person wears on their head because they don’t have hair like me.


Then I would point out where in the story we found this word so they can remember it easier next time.

Reviewing Sight Words and Introducing New Ones

Let’s start by reviewing sight words. One of the easiest ways to teach kindergarten students sight words is to read a list of them aloud and have them repeat after you.


An example would be:


I, love, my, do not, like, to, go, up

Practice Sight Words with Context Clues

One of the easiest ways to teach sight words is to give students context clues. Context clues are those bits of information that help you understand the meaning of a word without having to sound it out. It’s like filling in the missing pieces of a puzzle. If a word looks like “dirt,” you can guess that it means something in the ground (like soil).


Context clues are also helpful because they get your child thinking about how words work together. If you can use context clues to determine what a word means when they see it, then they can find meaning in sentences too!


In order to practice sight words with context clues, let your child know that the goal is to figure out what the word on the card stands for. They might say something like “I think this is an ____ because I see ___ near it.” Then have them fill in the blanks with their best guess as to what the word could stand for. Examples would be “I think this is an apple because I see apples near it,” or “I think this is a book because I see books near it.”


Sight words are a vital part of language development and literacy in general. When done successfully, they can help the children to read more fluently, improve their comprehension, and build a stronger vocabulary.


The best way to teach sight words to kindergarten students is to make the lesson a game. Three easy ways to do this include teaching them as part of a story, reviewing sight words and introducing new ones, and practicing sight words with context clues.

Start Teaching Reading for Free Now!

Access Level 1’s four interactive stories and the accompanying supplemental resources to teach elementary students how to read. No credit card is needed. Join the 42,635 teachers and students using our reading program.