At the same time that I started reading books with my kids, I started them on sight words. As I mentioned in talking about when they read their first book, I explained that some words are “funny” or “irregular,” and also that the more words they know by sight, the easier and faster reading will become.
We started our sight words with the words that were in the BOB books that they had already read, and the book that we would be reading that day.
Once we finished the first BOB set, we switched to the first 100 sight words. There are two main lists of sight words that I found – the Dolch and the Fry. Here‘s a nice explanation of the difference between the two lists.
For absolutely no reason, I chose the Fry list. There are great printable sheets of Fry words here. I bought a set of colored index cards, 30/color, and split the list into groups of 25. Each 25 words got its own color of cards. I broke this down, just as I had with the names and sounds of the letters, starting with the first 5 words in the set. We reviewed them for a short bit before or after my child read their practice book (BOB, Phonics Practice Reader, LAZ Reader). I let them choose when they did them, but always had this review as part of our reading practice. If they fussed, I reminded them that they were getting so good at the words that it would go lickety split, and that the sight words would really help them with their reading. Neither put up a huge fuss, perhaps because it was part of the reading practice from the get-go and it was not negotiable. (I’d say it was good temperament, except that my children are not afraid of complaining or refusing to do things.)
I had the kids try to sound out the word (if it was possible), or I would just tell them what it was. I didn’t want them trying to sound out words there was no hope of sounding out – it was important that they understood that there were just some words they would have to memorize. The first sight word we covered? “The” I threw it in on the last page of the first BOB book, because it ends with “The End.” We stayed on those words until they were automatic, then added in a few more. We continued reviewing the ones that were now sight words, but I was more flexible on whether we did those every practice or skipped a practice. When we finished a color, I put those 25 aside and moved on to the next color. We only reviewed a finished color once a month or so. And what about those super-tricky words that my kids just couldn’t master? We just carried them over into the next color. I tried to keep them to a sparse few, though.