How to Help Your Child Recognize Sight Words in Books Child1st Publications
Mar 10, 2022

How to Help Your Child Recognize Sight Words in Books

Right-brained learners /
SnapWords /
Visual Learner /
Struggling Readers /
Visual Learners /
Vowels /
Kinesthetic Learners /
Teachers /
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Word Problems /
Understanding word problems /
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Struggling Learners /
High Frequency Words /
Visual Learning /
Kinesthetic Learning /
Right-Brained Learner /
Sight words /
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A vast number of children have trouble recognizing high-frequency words. The reason this is a problem is because sight words are a high percentage of the words children encounter in reading. For example, up to 88% of the text in Dr. Seuss books are Dolch words and over 90% of them are SnapWords®.

The debate about whether or not to emphasize sight word recognition continues. Those who are against teaching sight words say that once children are expected to read a more advanced text, they will be out of luck. They will hit a wall and no longer be able to read. Those who favor teaching sight words believe that teaching high-frequency words will jump-start the reading process, especially for those who struggle to read.

I fall into the latter camp. But I don’t believe in just having children memorize lists of words. Word calling is not really reading. Child1st has over 640 high-frequency words stylized for easy learning and recall. The images on SnapWords® cards appeal to the right hemisphere, while the plain word embedded in each image is processed by the left hemisphere of the brain. Thus, the SnapWords® serve to link the hemispheres, which makes learning easier.

The gestalt design of our SnapWords® emphasizes comprehension, correct usage, and word recognition. The image conveys both the name of the word and what it means. The sentence on the reverse of the card models how to use the word correctly within a sentence. In addition, the body motion helps kinesthetic learners store away the words in a way that matches their learning style.

What if my child reads the stylized words, but cannot read the plain words?

This is a concern of some who see our stylized words and fear that the image will actually become a crutch to their children. The image is designed to help right-brained learners see the goal and meaning of the symbols that represent the word before it is broken down into parts for phonics. I want to share some ideas for how to transition your child from reading stylized sight words to reading those same words without the pictures.

Show SnapWords® and plain words side-by-side

a. Play Match Up. Have your child select about 10-12 cards from the sight word list you are working on. Let them arrange the cards picture side up on the table or floor. Write those same words on plain index cards. Have your child lay those words out all mixed in with the SnapWords® cards. When you say, “On your mark, get set, GO,” they will pick up a SnapWords® card and then quickly locate the plain card that matches.

b. Play Memory. Using the same cards you used in the first game, shuffle the sets together and then lay the index cards face down on the table and the SnapWords® cards face up. Your child will select a SnapWords® sight word card and will try and guess which index card matches it. If the cards match, they will keep the pair. If the card does not match the SnapWords® card, have them put the index card back, face down, and select another set. Play continues until they have found all the pairs.

c. Play Making Pairs. Use a pocket chart if you have one. Take the stylized sight word cards and arrange them in the pocket chart, or let your child do it. Then give them the stack of index cards. They will take the first plain word card and match it to the corresponding sight word card in the pocket chart. Just have them put the plain word in front of the matching stylized card. When they have finished, they can remove the index cards and shuffle them. Next, they can rearrange the SnapWords® cards in the pocket chart and repeat the game until they can get faster and faster at matching up the words.

Show SnapWords® and then show plain words

Provide many opportunities for your child to see first the stylized word, and then the plain word. Each time the child selects a card, they should also say the word. This gestalt approach will help your child see the meaning behind the symbols before we break the word apart to learn Systematic Phonics.

a. Play Weakest Link. Display a group of SnapWords® cards your child selects from the list of sight words you are working on.

Play Weakest Link


Talk about each word and then explain to your child that you are going to set a goal that they be able to read all the words without needing the pictures anymore. Explain that their brain will remember the images even after they're not looking at the picture words any longer. As you say each word together, ask them to close their eyes and “see” the word in their mind. (Standing, L., Conezio, J. & Haber, R.N. Perception and memory for pictures)

Next, they will point to each word and say it aloud. Finally, ask them to study the group of words. Which card is the one they know best of all? Turn over the word they chose and read the plain side.

Now, quickly point to words in random order, including the plain word and have them tell you what they say. Continue until you have turned every card to the plain side and they can still read them. If they stumble over a word, turn it back to the stylized side to allow a bit more time to transition.

Play Weakest Link Plain Words

b. Make short sentences using the stylized sight words. Make about 5-8 sentences and display them in a pocket chart. Some sentence ideas: “come down here,” or “play by me,” or “I can help,” or “he can make it,” and so forth. (All these words are taken from our SnapWords® List A).

Give your child a pointer and ask them to read the sentences to you. When they seem very comfortable with reading each sentence, have them close their eyes. Turn over a card or two. Have them open their eyes and read to you again. This time, a couple of the words will be plain, but they should be just fine. If they have trouble, give them a brief look at the picture card side and then replace it in the pocket chart with the plain word showing. The goal of this game is to get all the words turned over and for them to still be able to read the phrases.

c. Match stylized phrases with plain ones. Using strips of index cards or stiff paper, write a short phrase on each strip, making sure you have the SnapWords® cards that match the phrases. Arrange the SnapWords® cards you need face up on the table by the pocket chart. Give your child the first phrase strip. Have them find the picture cards they will need to form that phrase in the pocket chart. They will place the words in the same order that they appear on the sentence strip and then read you the phrase they just made. They can place the sentence strip in front of the phrase made from picture word cards.

Match stylized phrases with plain ones

Give them the next phrase strip and repeat the process. See if they can read you the plain phrases by the time they have placed all the phrases in the pocket chart. If they stumble over a word, simply lift the plain phrase strip to provide a peek at the stylized version underneath. Then replace the plain phrase strip.

d. Card Flip. A straightforward way to transition your child from stylized SnapWords® to plain words is simply to sit by your child and read the picture cards first. Next, turn the SnapWords® pack over so that the plain words are showing and see how many words your child recognizes on sight. These become "my words" and go in a stack of their own. The ones they don't recognize on sight will remain in another pile. Each day, before you read through the "learn" pack, review "my words" by having them read the plain sides. A nice prize is in order for learning all the words in a sight words list!

Provide many opportunities for your child to practice reading sight words in real text

Be sure to keep the stylized SnapWords® cards handy for a reference.

Easy-for-Me Children's Readers & SnapWords

a. Our Easy-for-Me™ Children's Readers are specially designed to be used with SnapWords® sight words. The green Set A coordinates with SnapWords® List A words. Before you read each story with your child, check the mini lesson included at the beginning so you will know how to prepare your child to read the book. Set aside the sight words cards that will be used in the story. These should be available to your child and visible as they read. If they come to an unknown word, rather than letting them guess wrong, simply point to the SnapWords® card that shows the word they need.

b. Use other books that contain the target words. Select books from the library with text that is sight word rich.

c. Use our Complete Sight Words in Sentences. This book is designed especially to give your child practice reading high-frequency words as they learn them. See a sample here. Again, as she reads, be sure and have the SnapWords® cards displayed for each of the words. If they run into trouble, simply point to the word in the pocket chart that they need in order to read the sentence.

I want to encourage you to let your child rely on the images as they are learning the words but remember, the goal is to get the child to the back of the cards to read the plain word as soon as possible. By doing this, Right-Brained children will have remembered the visual in their mind that corresponds to the symbols in the word.

If you encourage the practice of visualization, this will also help. By this I mean, have them take a good look at the SnapWords® image, and then with eyes closed, see it in their mind also and describe what they are seeing to you. Then they will look at the back of the card to read the plain word. Subsequently, if they come to a word they have visualized, try asking if they can remember the picture that went with that word.

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Want to teach the right-brained way and wondering where to start?  Our 306 Teaching Kit includes 342 high frequency sight word cards! Use this kit along with our Easy-for-Me™ Children's Readers to bring your learner reading success!

Have a question or a comment?  Please reach out to us and a team member will gladly help you!

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