First Grade Sight Words: Little Words That Mean a Lot

Why Learn First Grade Sight Words?

First Grade Sight Words

First grade sight words are common words that children encounter often in their reading, that cannot be represented with pictures, and which often do not fit regular spelling or pronunciation rules. As a result, these words must be memorized and learned through repetition until kids know them automatically by sight.

What Kids Need to Learn

Children going into first grade in the U.S. are generally expected to know the kindergarten and prekinder sight words, but actual ability in this area will vary according to children's age and development. Schools also vary in what they expect incoming first graders to know, so check with your school.

In the first grade classroom, children typically learn at least the forty-one words from the Dolch first grade sight word list, which is part of a standardized list of the most common sight words, divided up by grades K-6. As this list does not contain nouns, many schools supplement this list, either with the Dolch nouns, or with their own vocabulary words.

Putting It In Context

Children will be learning age-appropriate sight words from grades K-6. Because first graders have so little foundation to build on, it is particularly important for them to master these words so they do not feel lost or overwhelmed when reading first grade books. They will also be learning rules of first grade phonics, word families, reading strategies, and other skills.

Why They Are Important

First Grade Words Learning first grade sight words is a straightforward and powerful way for children to improve their reading. These words have the potential to be stumbling blocks to kids if they try to figure them out the usual way. By learning these words systematically through repetition, hands-on activities, and games, they will become automatic to first graders. This is a great confidence builder, since they will see these words everywhere. When kids begin to master this list, you will notice a marked improvement in reading fluency.

Reading Challenges Kids Might Face

Some kids simply have a hard time memorizing, and will need a lot of exposure through many different means before words begin to "stick". If they are presented with several new words too close together, they may feel overwhelmed or simply not remember them. Some children with learning differences, such as dyslexia, may have a very hard time learning words that are not spelled phonetically.

How to Help Kids Learn Them

All children will benefit from practice, repetition, and lots of exposure to new words. This does not mean doing the same thing over and over; on the contrary, the more different ways you can help kids experience these words, the better.

Quizzing Words
  1. Find ways for kids to touch, say, see, build, and even taste new sight words.
  2. Do not present new words too close together. What looks easy to you is a hurdle for a first grader, so give plenty of time approaching each word in different ways.
  3. When a child is working on a particular word, write the word on an index card, punch a hole through the card, and attach it to a ring. Continue adding new words as kids master them. Put the ring somewhere where the words can be reviewed often. This is a good way to keep old words fresh, and it's encouraging for kids to see how far they have come.
  4. Make learning fun with many different sight word activities and games.

Whiz Kids

You may have some kids who know all their first grade words while others are struggling painfully along. Keep these kids challenged and involved with the rest of the class by giving them the same exercises, but with more difficult words. You might also let an advanced learner help teach some of the others; learning from a peer can be fun and motivating for kids. Be sure you continue to give advanced children the same amount of time you are giving the others. Just because they aren't struggling, doesn't mean they don't also need your praise and undivided attention.

Looking for some fun sight words practice? Try out these cool sight word games.

Here is the complete list of 1st grade sight words.


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“Education is not preparation for life. Education is life itself. ”
~John Dewey