Why We Should Teach VERY FEW Sight Words 
to English Learners and English Speakers
Why Phonics?
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      Once students have been taught explicitly, systematically, and directly to decode and synthetically blend the 43-44 phonics concepts, they will be able to decode most of these words that many reading programs teach as words that must be memorized “by sight” or by their configuration. 

How Can High-Frequency Words or Highly-Irregular Words be Taught?

It is possible to teach that some of these words –or parts of them – are troublemakers!  For example, the is a troublemaker!  It says, “thuh.”  

In Phonics Steps to Reading Success, for example, the TM  indicates a type of troublemaker.  TM usually stands for a trademark.  In PSRS, troublemakers or highly-irregular words are introduced will be marked as a TM troublemakers. This makes more sense to students who are learning an orderly  phonetic system.  

Words like if, in, it, is or this, that, these, those, thus can be very confusing visually, particularly to English-language learners who generally have no frame of contextual reference when they are reading.

Words Are Not …Recognized As Wholes

   The confusion that arises when students are taught to read words by their shape is clearly explained in an excellent article, Parts, Wholes, and Context in Reading: A Triple Dissociation by Denis G. Pelli and Katharine A. Tillman. 

    Work on ‘crowding’ has shown that words are not usually recognized as wholes, even by adults, but rather that the visual system must isolate and recognize the individual letters to get the word…. 

-Denis G. Pelli, Katharine A. Tillman  Psychology and Neural Science, New York University, New York, New York, United States of America


Reading Comprehension Requires Students Have Accurate Decoding

When we expect students to read passages, to do work, to take tests, 
we want them to be accurate, not just fast. 

Reading comprehension requires students have accurate decoding (which you will be teaching), understanding of the meanings of the words used which reinforces the need to teach as much oral/aural vocabulary as we can, and sufficient background knowledge.  
Be very cautious in teaching students to memorize words by shape/configuration.

 "Research proves that the shape of a word is the least-used cue  
to its recognition by beginning readers (emphasis added)." 
-Dr. Patrick Groff, San Diego State University 

One simple aspect is that the primary books have large print often with predictable stories and the students practice and drill the sight-memorization with large print.

  Even in those easy books, one misreading or incorrect guess of one word can lead to poor comprehension of a passage or text.

  • The dog is in it in the game if we play Tag with him.
  • The dog is it in the game if we play Tag with him. 
  • The dog is to sit in it in the game if we play Tag with him. 

 Any slight misreading would be confusing.  Accuracy is essential. 

Shall We Teach the Most-Effective Or Less-Effective Strategies

      The teaching of sight-word memorization (now called high frequency words), in fact, does not contribute to reading excellence but does contribute to the many reading problems we see long term. 

      In many schools now, reading aloud is not permitted because it is too confusing for the students to follow along when the reader is applying error-causing strategies and misreading even a few little words.

     Pat Doran's Phonics Steps to Reading Success teaches students how to read and spell with increased accuracy.