Should sight words be exclusively taught above phonics? I see the importance of these base words being learned by repetition, but my son’s K-5 teachers ONLY use sight words. My son had been working with me at home with phonics for over a year, but we stopped for a month when school began. It wasn’t until he stopped trying to sound words out that we decided to go back to our phonetic pronunciations and lessen his dependence on the sight words. I don’t know how to tell his teacher that phonics works best for him. Am I doing the right thing by continuing to teach him an alternative path to reading? *

Sight words need to be taught in conjunction with phonics. It’s important that beginning readers are able to automatically recognize sight words, but without a sound background in phonics they will never be able to sound out unfamiliar words. As a teacher of beginning readers, I always stress a strong a background in phonics for all levels of students, accompanied by many lists of sight words to be learned over the course of the year.

I’d suggest that you arrange a conference with your son’s teacher. She may be focusing on sight words at this time, but I would be very surprised if phonics are not being used at all in his classroom. In the meantime, keep up what you’re doing. It sounds like phonics are working well for you . Remember, the more decoding strategies your son is able to utilize, the stronger a reader he will become.

*This is a question I’ve paraphrased from a comment I’ve posted from a reader. As teaching reading is such a key issue, I’ve answered here where the response is more visible. For the entire comment and question, please go to the comment section following, "All About Learning Sight Words."