Teach a Child to Sound Out Sight Words that Don't Follow Phonics Rules

I've shared some sight word flashcards with phonics rules on the back with directions to print and cut here. You will find all the posts I've shared on this blog related to these flashcards here.
I prefer to call these words high frequency words. Teaching a child to read words by shape and sight caused problems for my daughter and students I've tutored with reading. A human brain is limited in the number of words it can memorize and recall. I've struggled with the idea of teaching sight words. The Reading Genie's explanation of how children learn to decode words and how words eventually become sight words makes sense to me.

"Contrary to past beliefs, sight-word learning does not depend on rote association.  Children learn sight words in just a few quality encounters.  Quality encounters connect letters in a spelling to phonemes in the pronunciation, usually by sounding out and blending.  In other words, we typically learn sight words through careful decoding.  Though decoding demands great attention in young readers, it sets up reliable access routes to retrieve the word.  Once the access route is established, the tools to build it (correspondence rules) drop out.  The spelling becomes a meaningful symbol of spoken word (i.e., it "looks like" the word).  Learning to decode dramatically reduces the number of trials to sight recognition from an average of 35 trials to an average of 4 trials." Source: The Reading Genie: Overview: How Children Learn to Read Words

If children are asked to make the sounds they know in a sight word that doesn't follow rules, then they are learning to sound out and read the word. We can tell a child the part that is silent or makes a different sound. We can then help a child sound out words with sounds the child knows and the sounds given to him or her. The Reading Genie has shared that children who learn to decode or sound out sight words learn to recognize the word quicker than a child who learns a word by sight alone. It helps to teach words with similar sounds, patterns, or silent letters together.

Have you heard of the schwa sound? All the words in this picture have the schwa sound. The schwa sound makes the short u sound. All vowels are known to make this sound. Teach this to your beginning reader. You will find a ton of words with the vowel making the schwa sound.

I have read research that says trying to recall a word by memory uses a different part of the brain than matching letters to sounds. Reading is hard enough for beginners. Now imagine a child's brain having to constantly switch gears. Beginning readers will sound choppy at times while they sound out words. It takes patience to give a child time to go through this process.

A few words will be learned by sight similar to how a child can recognize McDonalds before he or she can sound out the word.

We don't expect our children to walk before they crawl. Teaching sight words from memory is like teaching multipication facts without teaching the math behind the answers. I worry when I see so many people advocating teaching children to memorize sight words. It had a negative impact on my daughter's reading. As soon as I showed her to start sounding out words her reading improved dramatically.

Knowing some sight words is like training wheels for reading. I don't think there is any harm in teaching some sight words to give a child a way to read some beginning reader books. As a child learns more about phonics, blending, and matching letters to sounds he or she will be reading without training wheels.

Find more information I've written for parents teaching their children to read on my profile page at Squidoo. Look for the list of lenses I've written.



teacher2mom said...

Your blog has wonderful "helps" for parents and teachers! Great games too. ;) I will definitely be adding your blog to our daily reads list!


Paula Lee Bright said...

Hi, Michelle, I'm here from the WeTeachGroup. I am so happy to see you mentioning the schwa! So many people are ignoring that sound lately, and I'm not sure why! It's essential to teach it as an alternate sound for every vowel. Good work here.