The What, Why, and How of Sight Words

boy reading

by Margo Edwards, Director of Content Development for, a free resource for child literacy

If you are a parent of a Pre-K to 3rd grader, you have probably heard something from your child’s teacher about “practicing sight words” at home. The teacher may or may not have though to explain to you what sight words are. So, what are they?

Sight words are words that should be memorized to help a child learn to read and write. Being able to recognize such words quickly—by sight—builds a child’s speed and fluency in reading. Knowing common words by sight makes reading easier and faster, because the reader does not need to stop to try and sound out each individual word, letter by letter. When a child struggles to decode the individual words in a sentence, they don’t have any brainpower left over to absorb what the sentence is about.

Sight words fall into two categories, Frequently Used Words and Non-Phonetic Words. Frequently Used Words are those that occur most often in the English language, such as it, can, and will. Memorizing these words makes reading much easier and smoother, because the child already recognizes most of the words on the page and can then concentrate their efforts on the few unfamiliar words. For example, knowing just the words in the Dolch Sight Words List would enable you to read about 50% of a newspaper or 80% of the words in a typical children’s book.

Non-Phonetic Words are words that cannot be decoded phonetically, such as buy, talk, or come. Sight words instruction focuses on the phonetically irregular words that also show up very frequently in printed language. Memorizing such words with atypical spellings and pronunciations teaches not only these words but also helps the reader recognize similar non-phonetic words, such as guy, walk, or some.

There are multiple sight words lists out there, and your child’s teacher has probably selected a particular one to work from. The Dolch list, consisting of 315 words is the most commonly used. It was developed in the 1930s-40s by Dr. Edward William Dolch, who studied the most frequently occurring words in children’s books of that era. The Fry sight words list, developed by Dr. Edward Fry, is also popular. It is more modern (it was updated in 1980) and more extensive. It is comprised of the most common 1,000 words in reading materials used in Grades 3 through 9.

So how does a parent go about “practicing sight words” with their child? It does not have to be an ordeal of boring drills, worksheets, and tears. The key to sight words instruction is simple repetition, and this can be accomplished with just a few minutes of flashcards followed by some fun game time. Use flashcards to introduce new words, reading, spelling out, and saying each word aloud several times so it can really sink into your child’s brain.

Follow that up with about 20 minutes of a game that incorporates the same words; this will reinforce the lesson with more repetition and really drive those words into the kid’s long-term memory. There are sight words versions of a lot of classic games, such as Bingo, Go Fish, Memory, and Candy Land. You can further reinforce the sight words instruction by pointing out sight words to your child in signs, books, etc. They really are everywhere!

Hopefully this removes some of the mystery of sight words for you. Just ask your child’s teacher which words the class is working on, and if there are any your kid is struggling with. It’s not rocket science; just a few minutes a day can help your child along the road to reading fluency!

Photo credit: John-Morgan / Foter / CC BY

Eight Things Remarkably Successful People Do


I was recently in a conversation with another business owner.  We were talking about how hard it is to run your own business.  I often feel exhausted at the end of the day and wonder why- then it dawned on me- it’s hard, it’s a lot of work and we consciously or unconsciously can make or break the success of an organization which impacts everyone around you- staff, family, clients, etc.  Poor management, bad financial decisions, lack of integrity, misperceptions because of miscommunications all can erode a company and in essence jeopardized the success of the organization.  Therefore it is imperative that good decisions be made day in and day out.  This, in and of itself, can be exhausting because quick or rash decision are not feasible.  In my reflection of this I began thinking of what successful people do to create sustainability.  I started digging around for advice and happened upon an article from Jeff Haaden in Inc. magazine titled “8 things remarkably successful people do.”  It struck a chord with me and I hope it does for you.  Burnout can happen but motivation can help squelch burnout.

1. They don’t create back-up plans. Back-up plans can help you sleep easier at night. Back-up plans can also create an easy out when times get tough. You’ll work a lot harder and a lot longer if your primary plan simply has to work because there is no other option. Total commitment–without a safety net–will spur you to work harder than you ever imagined possible. If somehow the worst does happen (and the “worst” is never as bad as you think) trust that you will find a way to rebound. As long as you keep working hard and keep learning from your mistakes, you always will.

2. They do the work. You can be good with a little effort. You can be really good with a little more effort. But you can’t be great–at anything–unless you put in an incredible amount of focused effort. Scratch the surface of any person with rare skills and you’ll find a person who has put thousands of hours of effort into developing those skills. There are no shortcuts. There are no overnight successes. Everyone has heard about the 10,000 hours principle but no one follows it… except remarkably successful people. So start doing the work now. Time is wasting.

3. …and they work a lot more. Every extremely successful entrepreneur I know works more hours than the average person–a lot more. They have long lists of things they want to get done. So they have to put in lots of time.

Better yet, they want to put in lots of time. If you don’t embrace a workload others would consider crazy then your goal doesn’t mean that much to you–or it’s not particularly difficult to achieve. Either way you won’t be remarkably successful.

4. They avoid the crowds. Conventional wisdom yields conventional results. Joining the crowd–no matter how trendy the crowd or “hot” the opportunity–is a recipe for mediocrity. Remarkably successful people habitually do what other people won’t do. They go where others won’t go because there’s a lot less competition and a much greater chance for success.

5. They start at the end. Average success is often based on setting average goals. Decide what you really want: to be the best, the fastest, the cheapest, the biggest, whatever. Aim for the ultimate. Decide where you want to end up. That is your goal. Then you can work backwards and lay out every step along the way. Never start small where goals are concerned. You’ll make better decisions–and find it much easier to work a lot harder–when your ultimate goal is ultimate success.

6. … and they don’t stop there. Achieving a goal–no matter how huge–isn’t the finish line for highly successful people. Achieving one huge goal just creates a launching pad for achieving another huge goal. Maybe you want to create a $100 million business; once you do you can leverage your contacts and influence to create a charitable foundation for a cause you believe in. Then your business and humanitarian success can create a platform for speaking, writing, and thought leadership. The process of becoming remarkably successful in one field will give you the skills and network to be remarkably successful in many other fields. Remarkably successful people don’t try to win just one race. They expect and plan to win a number of subsequent races.

7. They sell. I once asked a number of business owners and CEOs to name the one skill they felt contributed the most to their success. Each said the ability to sell. Keep in mind selling isn’t manipulating, pressuring, or cajoling. Selling is explaining the logic and benefits of a decision or position. Selling is convincing other people to work with you. Selling is overcoming objections and roadblocks. Selling is the foundation of business and personal success: knowing how to negotiate, to deal with “no,” to maintain confidence and self-esteem in the face of rejection, to communicate effectively with a wide range of people, to build long-term relationships. When you truly believe in your idea, or your company, or yourself then you don’t need to have a huge ego or a huge personality. You don’t need to “sell.” You just need to communicate.

8. They are never too proud. To admit they made a mistake. To say they are sorry. To have big dreams. To admit they owe their success to others. To poke fun at themselves. To ask for help. To fail. And to try again.

Carey Book PhotoCarey Baker and her husband, Brett, launched Part-Time Pros in March of 2008 aimed at giving professionals flexibility in the workplace, filling a much-needed niche in the Tulsa area. Six years later, their innovative business continues to grow and has been renamed ProRecruiters to better represent the broad range of their services.

In 2012, Carey wrote her first book “Hire a Pro/Be a Pro” to offer advice on how to hire and keep the best employees, as well as, how to be the employee that companies want to keep. In addition, Carey won a Tulsey Award in 2012 for her commitment to entrepreneurism.

Prior to opening ProRecruiters, Carey worked for Chapman Foundations Management, Advisory Board Company and The Williams Companies. Carey is currently serving as the 2014 chair of the Small Business Council for the Tulsa Regional Chamber. Carey lives in Tulsa with her husband Brett and their two daughters.

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sad woman

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puffing snow

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