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Sight Words: What You Need to Know

If you’ve been teaching reading for a while, you’ve undoubtedly come across the term sight words, and you probably have some questions about them. Should you teach sight words? What’s the best way to approach sight words? Is it bad to use a curriculum that teaches sight words?

In fact, a common question we get is, “Do you teach sight words in the All About Reading program? ” But before we jump into the details, let’s be sure we’re talking about the same definition for the term sight words.

Our Working Definition of Sight Word

frog looking through a magnifying glass

At its most basic–and this is what we mean when we talk about sight words–a sight word is a word that can be read instantly, without conscious attention.

For example, if you see the word peanut and recognize it instantly, peanut is a sight word for you. You just see the word and can read it right away without having to sound it out. In fact, if you are a fluent reader, chances are you don’t need to stop to decode words as you read this blog post because every word in this post is a sight word for you.

But there are three other commonly used definitions for sight words that you should be aware of:

  • Irregular words that can’t be decoded using phonics and must be memorized, such as of, could, and said.
  • The “whole word” or “look-say” approach to teaching reading, also known as the “sight word approach.” This approach is the opposite of phonics, and words are memorized as a whole.
  • Words that appear on high-frequency word lists such as the popular Dolch Sight Word and Fry’s Instant Word lists. (Many educators believe that the words on these lists must be learned through rote memorization, but we bust that myth in this video.)

So now you can see why sight words can cause so much angst! Educators have conflicting ideas about sight words and how to teach them, and in large part that stems from having different definitions for what sight words are.

But you are in safe territory here.😊

In this article, you’ll find out how to minimize the number of sight words that your child needs to memorize, while maximizing his ability to successfully master these words.

How Fast Is “Instant”?

Now that we’ve settled on the definition for sight words as “any words that can be read instantly, without conscious attention,” that may lead some people to wonder how fast is “instant”? And that’s a great question!

Basically, we want kids to see a word and be unable to not read it. Even before they’ve realized that they are looking at the word, they’ve unconsciously read it.

Here’s a demonstration of what I mean.

(Download this PDF if you want to try this experiment with your family and friends!)

As explained in the short video above, the Stroop effect1 shows that word recognition can be even more automatic than something as basic as color recognition.

So that’s what we mean by “instant.”

We want children to develop automaticity when reading, so they don’t even have to think about decoding words—they just automatically know the words. Ideally, we want reading to become as effortless and unconscious as breathing.

But what about words that aren’t as easily decoded? How should those words be taught?

Some Words Need to Be Learned Through Rote Memorization

The vast majority of words don’t need to be taught by rote memorization. Even the Dolch Sight Word list is mostly decodable (video). But there are some words that do need to be memorized.

Some programs call these “Red Words,” “Outlaw Words,” “Sight Words,” or “Watch-Out” words. In All About Reading, we call them Leap Words. Generally, these are high-frequency words that either don’t follow the normal phonetic patterns or contain phonograms that students haven’t practiced yet. Students “leap ahead” to learn these words as sight words.

Here’s an example of two flashcards used to practice the Leap Words could and again. In the word could, the L isn’t pronounced. In the word again, the AI says /ĕ/, which isn’t one of its typical sounds. The frog graphic acts as a visual reminder that the words are being treated as sight words that need to be memorized.

leap word cards

Leap Words comprise a small percentage of words taught. For example, out of the 200 words taught in All About Reading Level 1, only 11 are Leap Words.

Several techniques are used to help your student remember the Leap Words:

  • Leap Word Cards are kept behind the Review divider in your student’s Reading Review Box until your student has achieved instant recognition of the word.
  • Leap Words frequently appear on the Practice Sheets.
  • Leap Words are used frequently in the decodable readers.
  • If a Leap Word causes your student trouble, have your student use a light-colored crayon to circle the part of the word that doesn’t say what your student expects it to say.
  • Help your student see that Leap Words generally have just one or two letters that are troublesome, while the rest of the letters say their regular sounds and follow normal patterns.

For typical students who do not struggle with reading, very little practice is needed to move a word into long-term memory. They may encounter the word just one to five times, and never have to sound it out again.

On the other hand, a struggling reader may need up to thirty exposures to a word before it becomes part of the child’s sight word vocabulary. So be patient and give your child the amount of practice she needs to develop a large sight word vocabulary.

Here Are 5 More Ways to Increase Your Child’s Sight Word Vocabulary

green frog sitting on a lily pad reading a book

These five methods increase the number of times your child encounters a word, helping move the word into long-term memory for instant recall:

The Bottom Line on Teaching Sight Words

When it comes to teaching sight words, here’s what you need to keep in mind:

  • The goal of teaching sight words is to allow your child to read easily and fluently, without conscious attention.
  • Some words—we call them Leap Words—can’t be decoded as easily and must be learned through rote memorization.
  • Increasing the number of times a child encounters a word helps move the word into the child’s long-term memory.

Are you looking for a reading program that doesn’t involve memorizing hundreds of sight words via rote memorization? All About Reading is a research-based program that walks you through all the steps to help your child achieve instant recall. And if you ever need a hand, we’re here to help.

All About Reading Product Line

What’s your take on teaching sight words? Have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!

___________________________________
1Stroop, J.R. (1935). Studies of interference in serial verbal reactions. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 18, 643-662.

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KT

says:

Helpful information. Thanks!

Aliesa

says:

This info was helpful. Thank you.

Ashley

says:

Thanks for the great explanation of sight words. I have always disliked the lists. My daughter and I love the explanations as to why a word is a leap word. Her confidence In reading has grown leaps and bounds using your program. We also love AAS! I would never be able to teach her to spell properly without all your explanations and guides. Saves me from having to say “That’s just how the word is spelled, memorize it” Thank you! :)

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You are welcome, Ashley! Thank you for letting us know that our approaches to leap words and rule breakers has been helpful to you and your student.

Jennifer

says:

I love your website and materials. The information you have is so helpful to our family.

I have been helping my granddaughter with spelling and am intrigued to learn more about your programs!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Linda,
You will find our 6 Ways We Make Spelling Easy report helpful to learn more about All About Spelling. Also, we are always happy to answer any questions you may have.

RaeLena Rodriguez

says:

Very informative. Learned something new today. Great information. Thank you! 👍😊

Chanelle Wallace

says:

I get asked this a lot when talking about your spelling and reading curriculum so this helps me better answer their questions. Thank you!!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You are welcome, Chanelle, and thank you for talking about All About Spelling and All About Reading!

Amy H.

says:

Super helpful post on how to learn sight words! Thank you!

brooke

says:

I always learn something when I visit this site. Thank you for the simplicity with which information is presented.

Jennifer D.

says:

This article is such a balanced, informative explanation of sight words and what different people mean by them. Thank you for your help in navigating the lingo out there! (And the Stroop Effect — that’s amazing when you realize how ingrained language is in our adult brains!)

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Jennifer,
Thank you for letting us know that this article has helped you navigate the sight word meanings. And yes, the Stroop Effect is eye-opening!

Micky

says:

Great post. Super helpful.

Erica

says:

This is a great overview. Thanks for the clear explanation, I am more confident using All About Reading knowing how these words are handled.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Erica,
Thank you for letting us know that this explanation of how All About Reading handles sight words has been helpful to you.

Ashlyn

says:

Thank you for this post!

Amy

says:

My daughter is such a great reader! 😊

Chrissy Y.

says:

We love your Pre-reading program so much! Thank you for the incredible lessons :)

Christina Y.

says:

I am so grateful for your program. My sons and I are having a blast working our way through the Pre-reading program together. Every day they beg to begin our lessons! We can’t wait to move up to Level 1. Thank you for offering such a wonderful learning tool!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Christina,
Thank you for letting us know how much you and your sons are enjoying our Pre-reading program!

Angela

says:

I would love to try your program for my two boys. All your articles are so informative and helpful. Thank you!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome, Angela!

Brenda

says:

Thank you for pointing out the over-usage of the term sight-words. Since discovering that my middle child is dyslexic, we have really learned how improperly used that term is in the Montana public school system. Thank you for offering so many free resources and article to help us all!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You are welcome, Brenda. Please let us know if you need anything.

Susan McIntyre

says:

Amazing!!

Khanthaly Sama

says:

Wow! This info sure does make reading much easier for both teacher and student! Thank you!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You are welcome, Khanthaly. We’re pleased to know this article was helpful to you.

Lina Rodriguez

says:

I have heard many wonderful testimonies regarding this curriculum. I have not had the privilege to use it personally but hoping to for my 7th grader.

Gale

says:

Reading the same book over and over again, until your child has basically memorized the book, is great for learning sight words. We’ve not come to the phonogram “ay” yet in our formal reading lessons, but because my son reads Piggie and Elephant books TO DEATH and play is a word used in those books A LOT he spotted “Play With Me” as the title to another story I was reading him today (one he’d never read) and read it by sight. I was so excited, cause I wasn’t even asking him to read it…he just pointed at it and said it (he’s a struggling reader so this was exciting).

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Gale,
Yes, there is a lot of benefit of rereading stories. Thank you for sharing this.

nicole

says:

my daughter seems to do better with sight words, so this was interesting to read how to incorporate them better!

Laura Brown

says:

One thing to be aware of, especially with children who seem to do better with sight words, is that there is a limit to how many “whole words” can be learned simply by memory. Sounds odd, since good readers seem to read the whole word by sight alone, but it isn’t true, according to the research I’ve read. (Sadly, I’m terrible at keeping names of researchers and dates, and titles of papers in my head!) However, by memory alone, only about 3,000-5,000 words, max, can be learned without additional phonetic supports. Kids who learn only this way tend to do one of two things — they either stall out at about a 3rd grade reading level, or if they are one of the lucky ones, they’ll either figure out, or have a knowledgeable adult help them figure out, all the rules they’ve been learning examples of up until that point.

So I would take words your daughter is learning “by memory” as sight words, and help her deconstruct them based on the rules they follow, starting with the same order seen in AAR, or up to wherever she’s reached, if you’re already using the program.

DeAnna Martin

says:

I’m curious about the buzz with sight-words. Thank you for the article.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

DeAnna,
You are welcome. Let us know if you have further questions about sight words or anything else.

Janet

says:

Impressed with everything I’m reading about this program! Looking forward to starting it with my son.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you, Janet. Do let us know if you have any questions or need anything.

Jennifer

says:

I like the concept of “leap words”. The phonetic reading program we use is slow to introduce high-frequency words, so I end up taking a couple of weeks to supplement a crash-course in “sight” or “leap” words when my students are eager to pick up regular books but are struggling with those high-frequency words.

Kristine

says:

Great article! Thank you!

Wendy

says:

The video on the Stroop effect was very helpful. Thanks!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Wendy,
The Stroop effect is an eye-opener, isn’t it?

Tara

says:

AAR sounds like such a fun curriculum!

Amber

says:

This was very helpful, thanks!

Tracy Haynes

says:

I love seeing some of these explanations. Many thoughts that have occurred to me as we are learning reading in our household.

Stephanie

says:

We love all about reading it’s been a lifesaver for my dyslexic son.

Abigail Bidelspach

says:

Thanks.

auschick

says:

A friend showed me your program today and I think I’m going to buy it! I always raise my eyebrows when I see words that can easily be learned using phonics added to sight word lists. I love your dissection of the sight word meanings :)

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Please let us know if you have any questions or concerns as you make your decision about purchasing. We love to help!

Elizabeth Beer

says:

Thanks for this insight! We aren’t at this point yet, but I am thankful for the helpful advice you share. I have so much anxiety with teaching my kids to read!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Elizabeth,
Yes, teaching a child to read can be scary. However, we want to make it as straight forward and as fun as possible. We are here if you have any questions or concerns!

Deniece

says:

Do you think lack of working memory is a permanent problem or can it be Improved? How can a child with little working memory ever move information on into their long-term memory?

Merry

says: Customer Service

It can definitely be improved. That’s not to say that there may not be some ongoing struggles with working memory, but you can work to help a child improve this. Check out our free report on how to Help Your Child’s Memory. Repetition and multi-sensory approaches are really helpful in helping kids move information into long-term memory. Students who struggle in this area tend to need more review and may need more time spent in multi-sensory activities. This helps kids who struggle with memory issues, because they take in information in various ways and also interact with it in various ways. Work on one concept at a time and help your student master that before adding in new concepts.

In the spelling program, things like dictation can be used to help the student expand working memory. (When I started the program, one of my children could only accurately remember 4-word sentences. By the end, she had worked up to 10-14 word sentences.)

Hang in there! Your child can improve!

Nicolette Jenkins

says:

So helpful!

Jenny

says:

It’s fun to see how quickly children can memorize sight words!

Robin

says:

This will help make learning sight words easier for my son.

Sharla Martinez

says:

Very helpful ideas for teaching sight words!

Emily

says:

Thank you for the insight. This made me think of sight words in a new way! I love your program!!!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Emily,
You are welcome. We are happy to hear we have given you new insight on sight words.

Crystal

says:

Very helpful post, thank you!

Donna Louis

says:

Thank you for all the great tips.

Mary

says:

This is helpful!

edith teemant

says:

hum! I am so mad a the read by sight method though….. it is the way I learnd to read….. the only way.., and that was a disaster. may be I can make peace with what you shared. thanks

AMANDA

says:

Thanks for the sight word tips.

AMANDA PRICE

says:

Good advice for sight words.

Sherry

says:

My boys like that the sight words have a frog. It reminds them that they have to “do” something different to read it.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Sherry,
Many children seem to like the “leap word” frog!

Missy

says:

Love AAR and AAS! First year for using both and so far loving!

Tara

says:

I’ve struggled to teach my son sight words because with his learning challenges comes a poor memory. I love the idea of making games to help him encounter the words more often.

Julisa

says:

I much prefer your definition of sight words! We started down the road of pure memorization, but have finally made reading progress with decoding.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Julisa,
Thank you for letting us know that decoding has helped your student to progress with reading.

Jennifer Cheng

says:

I heard lots of good thing about this, can’t wait to try it!

Dawn

says:

We are finally making progress in spelling! After years of tears All About Spelling is helping us make amazing progress! I wish I had these programs 10 years ago. My 3 1/2 yo son is showing some of the same struggles with recognizing and using sounds as my 15 yo did at that age. This reading program looks like it would alleviate many of the struggles we went through. AAS is so easy to use and has a lot of varied activities so that boredom doesn’t have a chance to settle in-we would love to give AAR a try!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Dawn,
Three and a half is a bit young for many children to have success with recognizing and using sounds, but it is good to begin to teach these skills in order to have the best start possible. Our blog post on How to Develop Phonological Awareness has fun activities that build these skills.

Abby

says:

After struggling a LOT to figure out the best way to help my son overcome reading difficulties, I think this program will be an excellent choice when I teach reading the next time around!

Lisa S

says:

Thank you. My kiddos actually have more trouble spelling them than reading them. Do you have a blog post regarding advise on spelling practice with them?

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Lisa,
Spelling these sorts of words is definitely more difficult than reading them. I think our blog post on How to Handle Trouble Makers will help you. Please let us know if you have further questions.

Fowzia

says:

Thank you for this incredible and interesting short video. I love the energy and passion you have for this great program.

Jennifer Wilson

says:

Love this! Thank you!

Lori

says:

We have taught only a few sight words. I have always been a little unclear on what the definition was though.

Ashley

says:

Love new ideas

Kelli

says:

Thank you for this incredibly interesting and enlightening article and video! I have not taught my 3rd grader any sight words, and was feeling nervous about this since other homeschooling friends have mentioned how many sight words they teach their children. Now I understand why — since we’ve been using AAR for three years, he’s decoded and quickly learned most all of those “sight words!”!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Kelli,
Yes, the worry about what others are doing can be stressful. However, there are many good and correct ways to educate children. It sounds like you and your child are doing very well!

Kevin

says:

We are huge fans of All About Reading. It is so well structured and easy to teach. Thank you for a phenomenal program!

Audra

says:

I use AAS, but am gleaning a lot insight through AAR blog posts like this one. It is great!

Morgan E.

says:

Very interesting! I am doing a combination of sight words and phonics.

Judith Dickson

says:

I am tutoring a 6 year old and using AAR Level 1. I was interested to read your information about sight words and the Dolce list. These children are sent home lists of words to memorize rather than being taught to sound them out. She is definitely benefiting from AAR level 1.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Judith,
I’m sorry your student has so many words to memorize but glad that she is benefitting from All About Reading.

Jessica S

says:

We are learning the first Leap Word with AAR tomorrow morning! I am glad for the smaller list of words than would typically be given to children to memorize. Thank you for a focus on decoding words and less on memorization! We are excited to continue on in this fun journey of reading with AAR Level 1 this year.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Jessica,
Have fun with your first leap word!

Sue Boswell

says:

Great article, I can’t wait to try a new approach. I think my daughter, will do good.

Nicole

says:

With two budding readers, it is helpful to be reminded of how sight words can play a part in their reading development.

Alana

says:

We just started using All About Reading this year for my struggling 8 year old. He is really enjoying the program and I am loving it as well!

Stephanie Spain

says:

Thank you! This was helpful!

Erika

says:

Love this program!

Sandra

says:

These words are so hard for my little one with dyslexia. A nice reminder of the 30 exposure times, and that might be more for my kiddo!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Sandra,
Yes, learning words so well that they become sight words is difficult for children with dyslexia. My daughter struggled greatly for a long time to move from sounding every word out to fluent, smooth reading. I am happy to say that she is now reading very well and finding it enjoyable.

Students who struggle with fluency benefit from rereading the same story two or three days in a row to gain fluency and confidence. Buddy reading can be very powerful in helping students who are in this stage of struggling with fluency; this blog post explains how I did Buddy Reading with my daughter.

Rereading the stories helps to increase word rate and improve prosody. Prosody is “expressive reading.” It involves phrasing (grouping words into meaningful phrases), emphasis, and intonation (rising pitch at the end of questions and lowering pitch at the end of sentences). It also helps to improve automaticity (be able to recognize most words automatically without having to sound them out each time).

You can also do a variation of buddy reading called “echo reading.” You read a few sentences with full expression, and then your child reads the same sentences, matching your expression as closely as possible. Do this for approximately five minutes a day, or whatever is a comfortable length of time for your child. Add in lots of praise when your child shows even a bit of improvement.

Please let us know more about how your child is doing and if you have further questions or concerns.

Jolin

says:

Thank you for sharing these information and tips. I hope we can get to try AAR.

Dominica

says:

This is great info, and helps justify why I chose AAR in the first place, because it works so well. I just wish that there were some early readers that corresponded to AAR levels. It’s frustrating for my kids to go to the library and have every reader contain words they don’t know and can’t sound out until about the end of AAR Level 2.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Dominica,
There are some options for early readers that are a better fit with AAR 1. If you would like a list, please email us at support@allaboutlearning.com.

Have you asked the librarian to see if they have an area that has bound early readers? Our local library (King Co./WA) has some of the sets of Phonics Practice Readers that start off with a couple of books with just consonants and short vowel words, then -e words etc. are bound up into a single hardback volume – so one “book” will contain 10 smaller books, 2 per vowel. I was thrilled when I found these sets 20 years ago, but they’re very boring looking from the spines and library covers (at least in our area). The books inside are just fine, but the outside definitely makes them “hard to see” to know that they might be worth looking inside.

Good luck!

Laura

Nancy S.

says:

My eight year old is so discouraged with how hard reading is for him. I do know eventually the (more than 30) repetitions will solidify in his brain, but I wish it was easier. I am thankful for AAR so that he has a strategy for at least figuring most words out. It’s hard.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Nancy,
Yes, it can be very hard for some children. My daughter struggled greatly for a long time to move from sounding every word out to fluent, smooth reading. I am happy to say that she is now reading very well and finding it enjoyable.

Students who struggle with fluency benefit from rereading the same story two or three days in a row to gain fluency and confidence. Buddy reading can be very powerful in helping students who are in this stage of struggling with fluency; this blog post explains how I did Buddy Reading with my daughter.

Rereading the stories helps to increase word rate and improve prosody. Prosody is “expressive reading.” It involves phrasing (grouping words into meaningful phrases), emphasis, and intonation (rising pitch at the end of questions and lowering pitch at the end of sentences). It also helps to improve automaticity (be able to recognize most words automatically without having to sound them out each time).

You can also do a variation of buddy reading called “echo reading.” You read a few sentences with full expression, and then your child reads the same sentences, matching your expression as closely as possible. Do this for approximately five minutes a day, or whatever is a comfortable length of time for your child. Add in lots of praise when your child shows even a bit of improvement.

Please let us know more about how your child is doing and if you have further questions or concerns.

Christina

says:

This is our first time using the AAR program. My son is dyslexic and it came highly recommended. So far we are really enjoying it. I use to teach it public school but am homeschooling now. I like your blog about sight words, very true.

Monica

says:

I have been teaching for over 25 years and have 6 children with learning disabilities. I am so impressed with this curriculum!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Monica,
Thank you for sharing your veteran impression of our programs!

Sally Chancellor

says:

Thank you for the explanation and great tips. My kids are strange and actually love sight words (at least the older two, we’ll see how the younger two respond when they are bigger :)), so we go ahead and do a little ‘light’ sight word learning. They also like the confidence boost of having a base of words they don’t have to sound out. I don’t push the issue though.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Sally,
Many children do like learning sight words, as it makes reading those words super easy. However, as you know, it is important to also have the skills for dealing with unfamiliar words. A balance is important.

Maria

says:

thanks for sharing this information. Very good.

Maria

says:

Thank you for the helpful explaination.

Michelle Salas

says:

Thanks you. Very helpful

Rosemary

says:

So helpful. Thank you!

Chelsea

says:

So very helpful!

Andrea

says:

so very helpful, thank you for the video’s and printables, I appreciate all your work and we love your programs! We have used levels 1, 2, & 3 and plan to continue on!

Elanie

says:

Love AAS and AAR! The blog posts are always so helpful!

Jill

says:

Really great info on sight words! Thanks for the helpful tips!

Pamela Jane Sim

says:

Sight words just are not fun for my students. Thank you for all this wonderful information, it is greatly appreciated!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You are welcome, Pamela. Let us know if you have any questions.

Debbie Jessup

says:

This is the best thing I’ve found for my dyslexic daughter. All About Spelling has been very helpful to her, explaining things that seemed inexplicable. I wish I had found All about Reading years ago, because if it’s as good as the spelling program, it would have made things a bit easier!

Allison

says:

We are on Level 2 of AAR – and even though I was a good reader growing up, I love learning all the phonics “rules” behind why we say things a certain way. This program has been great for my daughter!

Jenn Khurshid

says:

Thanks for this! Sight Words always seemed overwhelming to me. Now I feel better prepared to help my daughter with her reading! :)

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Jenn,
We are pleased to hear that this article has helped you to feel better prepared. If you have any questions or concerns about sight words or anything else, please let us know. We can help.

Autumn

says:

This will be helpful in the near future! Thank you!

Karen

says:

My son has always struggled with learning sight words and I never understood how to teach them because I know I never learned them in school. This post really gave me a better understanding of why they are taught.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Karen,
I am happy to hear this post has helped you understand the reasons for sight words being taught. Please let us know if your son needs any help with sight words.

Maria

says:

Wonderful article!!! Thank you!!!!😃

Vanessa Vasquez

says:

Thanks for sharing the great game ideas! I’m going to try with my kids.

Katie

says:

We are new to homeschooling, and we are in LOVE with AAR Level 1! Our daughter looks forward to reading time every day, and was so excited to sound out her first words independently. I love the follow up activities and methods of instruction. Thank you for helping increase my daughter’s excitement with learning to read.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You are welcome, Katie. We love excited readers!

Melinda

says:

Thx. Very helpful. We have loved AAR this summer. It hasn’t been fun watching my 4 yr old learn to read and enjoy it

Amber

says:

Thank you for all your tips! I look forward to using them to help my son. I love AAR and AAS. I think it must be hard for parents whose children don’t struggle or don’t have dyslexia to fully appreciate AAR and AAS. Can’t thank you enough!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Amber,
Interesting observation. However, we do get a lot of appreciation from parents of children that don’t struggle, because the set up of All About Reading and All About Spelling are such that their children can move through it as quickly as they can, yet have no gaps.

However, helping those that do struggle has always been our goal.

Simah

says:

Thank you for your great article. My girls are natural readers and have caught on quickly to the Leap Words in the AAR series.

Kristi

says:

I learned to read using almost 100% sight words – very little phonics. Fast forward to today and I still struggle with unfamiliar words. My daughter is 6 in AAR 2. She reads amazingly well and decodes words she doesn’t know or hasn’t seen. We’ve both learned a lot!!! Thank you thank you!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Kristi,
It sounds like your daughter is doing so well!

I love this! We saw great success (in my past public school classroom) using small groups of sight words until they could be ‘retired’ and a new small group introduced. Always a great reminder and a fun video!

Rachael

says:

All the reading games you have created and can download free are great!

Jenn

says:

This is such a relief to read. After reading this, I think I’m giving my daughter too many sight words to learn at one time. I’m wondering if I should go through our lists in curriculum and focus on the ones that are high frequency and not decodable?

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Jenn,
Focusing on sight words too much can lead to word guessing and not knowing what to do with unfamiliar words. However, there are some words that are not decodable because one or more letters don’t say what we expect them to say. This document sorts the Dolch Word List phonetically and pulls out the 22 words that are truly not decodable.

Dawn

says:

Thank-You for all the wonderful information on your blog. I’ve just started AAS1 with my 11 yr old daughter who is dyslexic. Your site has so much useful information, keep up the great work!

Deb

says:

Thank you so much for these programs. My three boys’ reading has improved so much with them. My oldest is in AAR 2 and AAS1. The tiles are great,especially for my youngest who resists looking at anything on paper! Can’t wait to try the sight words. Your program has been a huge blessing to our family.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Deb,
Thank you for letting us know that our programs have helped boys improve!

Maj

says:

We love All About Spelling. My boys have had great success using it from elementary to high school! Thank you!

Jennifer

says:

I love reading all of your blog posts. They are always so helpful and informative. I can’t wait to start AAR pre-reading soon with my 4 year old!

Amanda

says:

I remember signing up to do a psych experiment in college, and it was the one you showed in the video. It’s interesting how hard that is!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Amanda,
How interesting that you participated this experiment in college! Yes, it is very hard to say the color and not read the word.

Desirae Roosa

says:

This is great info to help me with my struggling student. Thank you!

Amanda

says:

I’ve been interested in your program for a long time! I plan on implementing the tips you have shared in this article into our daily reading time. Thank you!

Crystal

says:

Great tips! Thank you!

Mama Cook

says:

I haven’t made the leap yet to AAR, but I love all of the tips and tricks I read! Thanks for yet another insightful post!

Sherna Swanepoel

says:

Very insightful thanks will definitely put into action :)

Jennifer T.

says:

After having one child in public school for 6 years, I can see why the site word memorization method without phonemic learning can hurt a reader in the long run. My son really struggles decoding words still and I really feel this was due to the push to memorize so many sight words in kindergarten. (His teacher really focused on sight words and made them learn 300 words.) The subsequent teachers also pushed sight words as the main focus and now I’m left to undo the damage. I’m hoping to see a difference in my younger children using AAR from the beginning.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Jennifer,
Such a heavy focus on sight words can lead to a word guessing habit and the inability to deal with unfamiliar words. However, you may be able to Break the Word Guessing Habit.

*5When my son was little, we called them “Naughty Words” because they were breaking the rules! He knew enough to know what most people think naughty words are, though he didn’t really know many back then. However, he enjoyed telling people that he knew how to spell naughty words. When he got frustrated with them, he learned about how words were codified into “correct spellings” and decided that when he died someday, the first thing he wanted to ask God was whether Samuel Johnson had been suitably punished for inflicting spelling on everyone.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Laura,
What a cute story! Thank you for sharing it.

Debra

says:

The All About Reading and Spelling programs seem amazing. I teach ELL students. Most students spend so much time decoding. I would like to know how to get them to develop automaticity.

Are you familiar with the read to/read with/read alone method? The first time your students encounter a text, read it to them while they follow along. Then read it together with them (they already kind of know what’s coming, so decoding is easier — a lot easier, in fact — and they have support while reading for words that are tough), and after that, they’re far more prepared to tackle it on their own. ELL is hard, especially if you’re working on written language as well as spoken language, but this method takes the pressure off while they get used to the whole idea of reading difficult words, so they can take as much as they’re ready for before being responsible for reading on their own. Usually, when I read, I am reading 3-5 times faster than my students, so it doesn’t add that much time.

Debra

says:

Thanks for your suggestion and information Laura!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Debra,
Automaticity in reading is developed through decoding the words many times. Some students only need to decode a word a few times in order to be able to read it automatically, but others may need to do it thirty or more times.

When students struggle to gain fluency and the ability to read smoothly without sounding many words out, we recommend having them reread the same stories and practice sheets multiple days in a row. Rereading will help increase word rate, improve prosody, and improve automaticity. Prosody is “expressive reading” and involves phrasing (grouping words into meaningful phrases), emphasis, and intonation (rising pitch at the end of questions and lowering pitch at the end of sentences).

Debra

says:

Robin, Thank you so much for your helpful information. I work at an English training school in China. I have been suggesting to the owner/manager to implement fluency reading into our program. She thinks Chinese children develop automaticity different from native English speaking children.

Lynn

says:

Thank you. These tips helped me teach my daughter and to be more patient.

Lynn

says:

Thank you. These tips helped me teach my daughter.

Sarah Hann

says:

We are in All About Reading Level One. It’s working well. I am pleased with the program.

Alena

says:

Thank you for the awesome tips you give on these posts.

Courtney

says:

I’m looking forward to trying this with my daughter!

Jen

says:

Thanks for all the great info.

Jodi

says:

Love AAR! We are now doing Level 2 Reading and have started Level 1 Spelling. My kids (three in the same grade–triplets) love to compete with each other on who can memorize the leap word first. It’s interesting that just today one son asked, “Why is it a leap word?” I was spot on with my answer according to your article. LOVE it when that happens! :-)

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Jodi,
Way to go, teacher!

Deb Boykin

says:

I love these programs but my girl is doing much better with reading than spelling. All these rules and exceptions to rules are getting tough for her. We just did the section on the sounds of er and the six ways to spell it. It has been a struggle hopefully eventually it will click like the reading has done.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Deb,
It is common that reading is easier for a child than spelling. However, the Step in AAS 5 that covers the six ways to spell the sound of /er/ is a review/assessment lesson. Since your student had trouble with it, consider not moving onto AAS 6 right away. Spend time reviewing, reteaching as necessary, and ensuring she has mastered the word cards and is having a lot of success with the dictation. Please contact if you have questions or would like help in reviewing AAS 5.

Deb

says:

I guess didn’t make it clear. We are only in Level 2 Step 5, not Level 5. I said 5 sounds of er because that is how many there are on the phonogram app. We started over with Level 2 this school year because she just wasn’t getting the spelling. I hoped the slower pace would help. We are almost finished with Level 3 Reading and she is doing well.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Deb,
I’m sorry I misunderstood. AAS 5 has a lesson that covers the 6 ways to spell the sound of /er/, so I thought that is what you meant.

Staring with AAS 2 will help, as AAS has students working with only one way to spell a sound at a time. AAS 2 introduces the most common way to spell the sound of /er/ (er) and the other ways are introduced slowly in order of decreasing commonness through levels 3 through 5 so that students have the time to master each spelling before learning the next. This approach makes dealing with multiple ways to spell a single sound much easier to deal with.

Kayla

says:

Thank you for such a thorough program that plans for “frog words.” My visual learners find it soo helpful.

Kristie

says:

Almost completed AAR Pre-reading and so excited to go into AAR level 1! My child is loving this reading program! Thank you for all the helpful information!

Heather Starnes

says:

I love the way all about reading narrows down the ” sight word list”. I used to wonder why some of them were even sight words. With the “dolch list”. My son has always struggled with reading and writing. I used to think we would never get there. There were tears with the first program we tried. We are in level 3 of All About Reading. What seemed hopeless in the beginning, now seems hopefull.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Heather,
I am pleased to hear that All About Reading has helped to change the hopeless to hopeful!

Sara

says:

As a former kindergarten teacher, there was a huge emphasis on sight words. It’s hard to get out of the mind set, but I’m trusting the AAR process. You’ve given me something to think about.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Sara,
The process works! However, if you have any questions or concerns, please let us know.

Laurie

says:

My son loves finding new “frog” words. The picture really helps him to remember it’s a word that breaks the usual rules he’s learned so far.

Krystil

says:

My daughter loves the frog, she’ll get excited over finding our leap words in her books

Heather

says:

My daughter just started K at a public school but we’d worked on some basic reading concepts at home already. On her first day she received her list of sight words for the year. I appreciate the break down of the Dolch list by phonetics.

Kimiko

says:

My 3rd grade daughter is finally learning how to read, but they use the “whole language” approach at her school and her spelling is atrocious. She can read because she’s been read to a lot, but needs to get the phonics to know how to decipher a word. And now I’m trying to teach my kindergartner to read at home. Might be time to invest!

Francine VanWoudenbergSikkema

says:

I appreciate that this seems to take a balanced approach! Thanks for the helpful explanation.

Jenn

says:

My son struggles with Leap words,so we play lots of games with them. It makes it seen like it’s not so dreadful!

Lori

says:

I really appreciate your definition of and approach to teaching sight words. I must say, the part about homeschooling my son that most intimidated me was teaching him to read, but now just a little over 2 weeks into our Kindergarten/First grade year of homeschooling (he did 2 years of pre-school at a private school and turned 6 a few weeks ago), I am loving teaching him phonics and how to read, and he is doing an outstanding job! He’s already completed 7 lesson and read 4 stories in AAR level 1. Since reading well is the foundation of a great education, I can honestly say I am super grateful for a program like AAR that takes the guess work out of teaching reading. Thank you!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Lori,
It sounds like you and your son are doing so well! Keep up the great work!

Deb G.

says:

I did not know that it takes about 30 exposures of a sight word for a child who struggles to read for the word to become automatic!

Sam

says:

I think this article was wonderful but would be interested in hearing suggestions about what to do with a child with surface dyslexia ? I know that’s probably outside the purview of this blog but you’re breakdown of reading principles is so accessible, I had to ask !

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Sam,
Surface dyslexia is another name for dyseidetic dyslexia. It is easier to find information online about dyseidetic dyslexia, so that may help you. Basically, these are terms to describe some dyslexics that know basic phonics well but struggle with whole word recognition and higher level phonics. For example, reading bet and wait are pretty easy, but debt and weight are very difficult.

To help a child with this type of dyslexia, you need a program that teaches phonics beyond the basics. A program that teaches about silent Bs and the eigh phonogram would make the words debt and weight as easy as bet and wait. All About Reading covers these advanced topics and many, many more.

In addition, a student with surface dyslexia will also need a program that provides enough reading practice so that they can develop smooth, fluent reading. One of the things that Marie, the author of All About Reading, noticed when she was researching reading programs is that few programs have enough review built in for kids who struggle to gain fluency. All About Reading has practice sheets or a warm-up page and a story to be read with every lesson, so students can practice reading smoothly with expression and confidence.

I hope this helps, but please let us know if you have further questions. We would love to help you as much as you need.

Carol Barno

says:

Oh my, tried so many things. Maybe this is the answer!!!!!

Debbie Hale

says:

I work with dyslexic students in a school setting. We love the spelling jail in All about spelling. Students know why these words are rule breakers and get a kick out of putting them in jail! I am a huge fan of your program for our students who learn differently.

Stephanie

says:

Very informative!

sarah

says:

Great explanation of why sight words are “sight words” and what that really means. Thanks.

Kayla Clark

says:

Some great ideas for teachers and the parents of our students. Thanks!

Kate

says:

It is so interesting to watch the different ways kids learn to read. I really appreciate that All About Learning covers them all!

Rebecca R.

says:

Thank you for the explanation of the “why” behind sight words. I will be starting AAR and then hopefully AAS with my youngest children this year!

Meghan

says:

I absolutely love AAR! It makes teaching my 2nd grader so much easier. We are also starting the AAS curriculum this year. It’s wonderful to see my child becoming a better reader day by day!

Jenn A

says:

Thank you for this information – it’s incredibly useful to have this all in one place for easy reference! We’ll be playing the games this week for sure!

Christy maloney

says:

I just want to say that my son was reading at a mid first grade level entering second grade and his phonetic awareness was at a high kindergarten level. We started second grade and he would fight me on reading. Now entering third grade he reads at a mid third grade level and there is no fight. He’s more fluent. He still has phonemic awareness issues, especially as the words get longer but I love AAR!!! It has been such a help to him in his growth and since it is level and not grade based…there’s no pressure. 😊😊😊thank you for this program!!!😊😊😊

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Christy,
Thank you for letting us know about the great progress your son has made!

Diana

says:

Very informative! I am of the opinion that a lot of the so call sight words can be sounded and this post is just what I needed to read!

Shannon Cress

says:

I found this very helpful as this is my first year homeschooling my daughter for kindergarten. I don’t have a teaching background and know very little about the world of education in general, but I’m growing to love it. Thank you for this helpful information about sight words!

Alyssa

says:

This was a really helpful article. I have family who will “quiz” my child on sight words and it drives me crazy. Now I know how to reply.

Kathryn

says:

This is great information regarding sight words. Even though we homeschool we sometimes feel pressure to do Hingis a certain way. Thank you for continuously sharing information in an easy to understand format.

Danielle

says:

I love all of your insight into sight words, thank you.

Deanna

says:

Love all your insight. It is always helpful.

Stephanie S

says:

We were overwhelmed by sight words in kindergarten and then I wasn’t completely sold on them when we started homeschool so glad to have clarification and focus!

Cara

says:

Very informative! Thankyou for making sight words clear for an amateur educator!

Annie

says:

Love how the leap words are introduced in AAR 1. It hasn’t been intimidating at all!

Kristin

says:

Great article. Can’t wait to try these games with my son.

Adam

says:

I’m not convinced of the value of sight words, but you’ve given me more to consider

Sabrina

says:

Very informative, thank you!

Thanks. I am very nervous about teaching my 2 1st graders to read this yr. All this is helpful.

Olivia

says:

It is very helpful for emerging readers that AAR teaches them to decode as many words as possible, so that very few must be learned by sight! My kids enjoy trying to figure out which letter(s) in a leap word doesn’t follow the phonics “rules.”

Christiana

says:

Thanks for explaining. I have one child for whom reading is easy, and another who needs a bit more practice.

Lauren Myers

says:

I love that explanations are provided as to why a word is a leap word. I feel it helps reinforce the rules and why this particular word doesn’t follow that rule.

Jennifer S

says:

Thank you for the ideas for helping with sight words and the game links. Can’t wait to try it out on my daughter!

Aless

says:

An excellent explanation, thank you!

Courtney Hubers

says:

Sight words are so hard for my daughter. I can’t wait to try this!

Courtney

says:

Sight words are so hard for my daughter. I can’t wait to try this.

BT

says:

Thank you for differentiating the sight word definitions. It helps to define terms!

Debra

says:

Good to hear this perspective on sight words

Beth Gillespie

says:

Super helpful, thanks!

Trish

says:

Can’t wait to “leap forward” with AAR!

Excellent blog so informative. I’ve been wrestling about the “lack” of sightwords in your level 1 curriculum. I completely get it now and I shall trust the process. ;)

Margarita

says:

This is super helpful. I could use all the help I can get!

Anita

says:

I am so excited with these lessons and can’t wait to try them out.

Zorah

says:

Very enlightening! This totally changes my perspective on teaching sight words. Thanks for this insightful article.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Zorah,
I’m happy to hear that this blog post was helpful and informative to you. Please let us know if you have further questions about sight words or anything else.

Kristi Schiebel

says:

I wish I had known about All About Reading when I started schooling my first kids. Looking forward to using it for the next one to teach read.

Jenn

says:

I love these blog posts. Thank you for all the tips and help!

Gail Timmer

says:

Sight words, red words, pain in the neck words 😊 Patience required. My kids seem to learn these words if we play a game or two or ten with them.

Katy K.

says:

I learned a lot reading this post. Thank you!

Carissa mengers

says:

Thank you this is very helpful.

Danielle

says:

Definitely going to try some of these games. Thank you!

Kayla B

says:

Very helpful!

Jessica

says:

I love the games & can’t wait to use them with my little ones!

Jayme

says:

“The” was my sons first sight word he learned using AALP Level one. He know associates the frog to sight words. 😁

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Jayme,
My daughter calls them “Frog Words” instead of “Leap Words”. :D

Rachel Neufeld

says:

This is the main reason All About Reading works well for our family. My oldest hates memorizing and it takes a lot of work for him to memorize a sight word. He does very well decoding words though. So he would never learn to read if taught mainly through sight words.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Rachel,
We are so pleased to hear that All About Reading’s approach to sight words is working well with your child.

Andrea

says:

Preschool prep sight word DVDs have been helpful also

Terry

says:

I hope to get my handicapped grandson to this point.

TRACI HOFFMANN

says:

Enjoying the program with my preschooler. Would love to win the next level

Kylie

says:

Great article! We never did sight words but the more my son reads the more automatic the words become!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Kylie,
Yes! That is what I found as well. It is a slower process for some children, but it does work.

Cynthia Hochstetler

says:

We like your curriculum and could use another level. Cynthia Hochstetler

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