During first grade in the U.S., children are often expected to memorize certain simple words. They’re not supposed to use the letter sounds to sound them out. They’re supposed to be able to recognize them on sight. As a result, they’re called “sight words”. They’re very common words that your child will see over and over in pretty much every children’s book. There are different lists of sight words for kids in preschool through third grade. (Print our lists of sight words for preschool, kindergarten, first grade, second grade, third grade.)

Why is it so useful for parents to help kids learn sight words?

It will give your child’s reading an extra boost.

If your child can recognize and easily read these high-frequency words, it will help speed up your child’s process of learning to read. Reading unfamiliar words takes a lot of mental energy. It’s hard and tiring! But if your child knows many common words by sight, she’ll have more brain power to focus on reading new, tougher words and thinking about what those words mean.

Raising the teacher’s expectations

First grade is when teachers begin to regularly assess children’s reading ability. Children who are struggling will be flagged for extra help, which is good. However, some teachers may also stereotype the kids by their ability. Children who are doing well will be seen as strong students who can handle more. Helping your child memorize sight words will give your child a little leg up.

It will help your child feel more confident

Feelings can have a huge impact on learning. Children who feel fearful and anxious in classes often have so much going on inside their heads that they have trouble concentrating. If your child is feeling anxious or learning English, it’s only natural for her to sometimes feel overwhelmed. This is a relatively straightforward way that parents can bolster their child’s learning process. By helping your child practice and memorize these few simple words, you can help build your child’s sense of confidence.

2 fun sight words games

Before playing these games, make sure your child understands the meaning of each sight word. Look up words you or your child don’t know. Then, you can help your child master the sight words with these two simple games.

  1. Three strikes, you’re out

    Print or write a list of first grade sight words. Post it on the refrigerator or keep it inside your purse for use when you’re stuck in line or in a waiting room. When you have a moment, have your child read five to 10 words (no more unless they’re begging for it). When your child gets the word right, put a check mark by it. When your child has three check marks by a word, cross it out. Slowly cross all the words off as your child learns to recognize them all.

  2. My pile, your pile

    Create flashcards with each of the first grade sight words on them. Have your child flip through each card and try to read it automatically. If your child gets it right, it’s their card. If she hesitates or sounds it out, it’s your card. Then, for the next round, just use your cards, the ones that your child is still working on. This game is nice in that it feels like playing a game even though it’s really focused on learning new words.