Strategies to Teach Sight Words in an Elementary Classroom

By Blackwell, Rachel; Laman, Sarah | International Journal of Education, October 1, 2013 | Go to article overview

Strategies to Teach Sight Words in an Elementary Classroom


Blackwell, Rachel, Laman, Sarah, International Journal of Education


Abstract

The theoretical framework within which this article defines and describes the teaching of reading in early childhood education is derived from the work Ehri (1995). Ehri is professor of educational psychology at New York University. Professor Ehri describes four phases to the process of learning how to read. The four phases are pre-alphabetic, partial alphabetic, full alphabetic, and consolidated alphabetic (Ehri, 1995). Once the reader has gone through these four stages, they are then able to move forward towards fluency in reading by memorizing sight words. At the end of these processes the student will then be able to achieve literacy.

Keywords: sight words; dolch list; reading

1. Phases of Sight Word Development

There are four distinct phases in the development of sight words (Gaskin, Ehri, Cress, O'Hara & Donnelly, 1997). These phases are characterized by the type of alphabetic knowledge used to form neural connections. The four phases are: pre-alphabetic, partial, full, and consolidated alphabetic phases (Ehri, 2005). Ehri has extensively developed and researched the commonalities that underlie the written forms of English words. Dr. Ehri believed that all learners must go through all four phases in the development of sight words before beginning the process of memorizing them (Ehri, 1995). When a child masters the pre-alphabetic, partial, full and consolidated alphabetic phases they are able to form connections in their brain that link the written word forms of the sight word to their pronunciation and meanings (Ehri, 1995). With each phase in development, the connection forming process is evident and helps children put the word into sight memory.

1.1 Pre- Alphabetic Phase

The first phase of sight word development consists of the pre-alphabetic phase. Children at this phase have not developed any alphabet knowledge.Instead, children at this phase read sight words by remembering the visual cues around or in the word (Gaskin, Ehri, Cress, O'Hara & Donnelly, 1997). Children in this phase are essentially nonreaders and do not use the alphabetic system. Children that read words do so because the words have very distinct visual clues (Ehri, 2005).

1.2 Partial Alphabetic Phase

The second phase in the four-phase progression of sight word learning is the partial alphabetic phase. Progression to the partial alphabetic phase occurs when children sufficiently learn the sounds and names of the alphabet letters (Ehri, 2005). However, they still have difficulty decoding unknown or unfamiliar words because they lack the knowledge of vowels and rules pertaining to the alphabet (Gaskin, Ehri, Cress, O'Hara & Donnelly, 1997).

Children in this phase find connections with certain letters in the words. Generally, the easiest letter sounds in a word are the first and last letters because they are the most prominent (Savage, Stuart, & Hill, 2001). Children will often pick out those first and last letters to associate with the word itself.

Such a skill is progress towards reading fluency; however. it is a very inconsistent technique and can lead to reading errors. For example, if a child learned to read the word "kitten" by letter association using the K and N and was then presented with the word kitchen, the child might misread that word as kitten.

1.3 Full Alphabetic Phase

When a reader enters the third stage of the four steps of reading development, they are able to "analyze the spellings of words by matching up all the letters to sounds in pronunciations" (Gaskins, Linnea, Cheryl , Colleen & Katharine, 1997, p. #). In this phase, the reader is able to make complete connections with the letters and the written form of words. These readers are able to decode unknown words.

1.4 Consolidated Alphabelic Phase

The fourth and final phase of sight word development is called the consolidated alphabetic phase. In this phase, children are able to retain more sight words by memory. …

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