Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!

You are here

The Importance and Misuse of Sight Words

TJ von Oehsen's picture

Two weeks ago, I focused my attention on the usage of cite words in the Rose Kindergarten classroom. Sight words are a list of words that the teachers have written and posted on the wall of the classroom and that have extra time and emphasis devoted to student’s learning about them. During this placement, I have seen both the obvious benefits of this increased emphasis, but also the pressure, and subsequent dangers and impatience that has sometimes been spurred by this focus. Every Friday, there is special time made in the morning to read a poem of part of a song that students then search for sight words in and circle on their own individual papers. However, when I say that time is devoted, I mean that this activity has almost always been thrust in the middle of two projects that the teachers devote much more time to and are regarded as much more important. This would certainly be fine if all the students could finish within the time allotted for this exercise. However, these sight word searches have consistently ended in one or two students not having found all the words by themselves, being told how many words they should’ve had, and then having the teacher point them out before the student him or herself can go back and correct their own mistakes.

There are, of course, other activities that the teachers devote more time to involving sight words. However, these activities involve a student being called on in front of the rest of their classmates and asked to read a certain word or sentence out loud. Being thrust into a more high pressure situation such as this after not being given enough time to evaluate sight words on their own appears problematic to me. What is even more problematic is that, if a student is called on and is struggling to identify a sight word, the only assistance the teacher gives is, “it’s a sight word” or, “come on, you know this one.” Although this assistance could help narrow down the list of words a student is thinking about, I have, on multiple occasions, seen this process only add to the pressure a student is feeling and, this week, one student simply shut down upon realizing she did not remember a sight word. Although a beneficial tool, the way in which a teacher utilizes a tool such as sight words can lead to both positive and negative responses from their students.