Planning a Successful Sight Word Intervention


Sight Word Mastery Method Step 1

Let’s dive into the first step in this five-part series as we cover the Sight Word Mastery Method. This method is going to help you to ensure that your students learn their sight words in the upcoming school year. 

We all know that when kids are able to learn their sight words, they are going to become readers! But did you know that 67% of words make up 300 of the most common words we see in text? This means that when you implement this exact method of teaching sight words, I can guarantee you will see consistent results! Wouldn’t that be nice? 


A Case for the Importance of Sight Words


When students are able to master their sight words, we know that they are able to read 67% of the text that they get exposed to. When we add on explicit phonics instruction, we have readers! Knowing all this, we can be confident that sight word mastery is a key component to helping students learn to decode. 

Nevertheless, sight word instruction comes with a lot of problems. Let’s take a look at those now. I bet you have encountered one or more of these in your experience!  


1 – Students don’t retain the words you teach. 


This is probably the most common problem when it comes to teaching sight words. A student has been practicing a word consistently and successfully in isolation, but then when they see it in text, they are suddenly stumped. They try to sound it out and get frustrated easily in doing so. 


2 – Students don’t get support at home with sight words. 


These students are not getting the extra practice at home which leads to retention challenges. 



3 – You are given a list of sight words to teach without a plan. 


You know what you’re responsible to teach, but you are unsure about the details involved in attacking all these words. 



4 – You are given too many sight words to teach.


Some districts require students in kindergarten to master 200 words by the end of the year. While you may be able to expose them to all of those words in a school year, mastery isn’t actually realistic! 



5 – You spend so much of your time looking for material. 


Whether it’s nights, weekends, or your precious prep time, you are constantly looking for materials that will be fun and engaging ways for students to master all these sight words. 

The Sight Word Mastery Method Step 1: Helping With These Headaches


You may identify with one of all five of these challenges, but the good news is that all of these issues can be fixed with the Sight Word Mastery Method! 

My name is Lori Furgerson and I help kindergarten through 5th-grade teachers bring their struggling readers to grade level by making sure the foundational reading skills are in place. This is critical because when students are not able to decode, they will never be able to develop comprehension skills. I can help you ensure that your students get exactly what they need in order to become successful readers! 

Before I go any further, I want to be clear that I am not encouraging that sight words be taught in isolation. Sight words should always be taught at the same time we are teaching phonics. By following the steps of this method, you will have confidence that sight word practice will consistently transfer to successful application. We will be doing much more than traditional drill and kill! 

These lessons are going to be short and actionable. At the end of the lesson, you will be given homework to do. Then I’ll be back in a week to jump into the next step. 


What is the Sight Word Mastery Method? 

The Sight Word Mastery Method is a set of five very easy-to-follow steps that will ensure mastery and confidence in your students when they approach the words you teach in text. 

Getting Started


To begin, you need to pinpoint exactly which list you will use. Fry and Dolch are your best lists to choose from. In the event that your district has not already selected one, I recommend the Fry list. 

Next, you will identify which words students will need to master by the end of Kindergarten, First grade, and Second grade. Again, this is not just exposure. It’s important to ensure that whatever words are on this list are in fact, mastered. 

Sight words are made up of irregular words and regular words. When a student doesn’t know a word, it’s considered an irregular word because they don’t know how to decode the word. Some sight words do in fact follow phonics patterns. 

Yet as soon as a student knows a phonics pattern, that sight word moves over to the “regular word” category. An “irregular word” is one that does not follow a pattern. 


Here are some examples from Fry’s sight word list: 

Regular Words         Irregular 

had (CVC)                       said 

spell (vowels)                  of

this (digraphs)                was


As soon as you teach any phonics skills such as CVC, vowels, or digraphs explicitly, students will be able to decode words like these shown above. This is why sight words need to be taught hand in hand with phonics instruction.

 The best way to do this is to include sight words as examples in your phonics instruction. This narrows down the list of irregular words that must be explicitly taught. 


Your Homework for Step #1 of the Sight Word Mastery Method

  1. Take a look at what word list you are going to use. 
  2. What sight words do you want students to master at the end of your grade level? 

Be sure to check out Step #2 of the Sight Word Mastery Method next! And don’t forget to grab your FREE copy of the Sight Word Intervention Quick Start Guide! 


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