Next Steps: Sight Word Recognition

Not all words are regular words that can be decoded. Some words, like the word “light”, are irregular and cannot be decoded easily. So we introduced Anna to motivating words that were irregular – words like school – and we taught her to recognize these words by sight. We also taught her to recognize by sight some words that were very motivating but were more difficult to decode, for example, words such as Minnie or Mickey.

As Anna learned to recognize these high interest words by sight and as she started to read more words in books, we also taught her to read some of the structural words that occur frequently in written texts – words like “and”, “the”, or “because”.

Goal for Sight Word Recognition

Anna’s goal for instruction in sight word recognition was as follows:

When presented with a word orally, Anna will select the written word from a field of 4 written words with at least 80% accuracy over at least 2 consecutive sessions.    

Teaching Sight Word Recognition Skills

4 written words

In this task, the instructor first presented Anna with 4 written words as possible response options. She then said the target word to Anna. Anna had to select the correct written word from the choices provided.

If the sight words could be represented by pictures (e.g., words like Minnie, Mickey, school), then the instructor could use a different approach and provide Anna with 4 picture choices along with the target written word. In this task, Anna had to read the written word and then select the picture of the target word from the array of pictures. Or she could sign the target word, or use a speech approximation to say the word where possible.

As with all of the other skills, we provided Anna with scaffolding support to help her learn this new skill.

  • First we modeled the task.
  • Then we provided her with guided practice.
  • Then we provided her with opportunities for independent practice.
  • We always provided her with feedback on her responses.

In this video, you will see Anna after about 60 hours of instruction. She is now decoding and recognizing by sight a wide range of words (e.g., rug, run, see, wind). Notice how she is building fluency in her responses. It is no longer as effortful for her to decode or recognize these words by sight.  She has made significant gains in her literacy skills. She has also made significant gains in her speech, language, and communication skills as she spontaneously comments on the “dirty baby” in the photo provided as a response option.

For more information on teaching sight word recognition skills to children with complex communication needs like Anna, visit our website on Literacy Instruction.

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