Teaching Reading in your {Catholic} Homeschool

If you are teaching reading to your little one or have a child who is having trouble reading, then it is vital that they become proficient in sight words. Sight words are about 87% of all the words that children read in their trade books. Words like “the” “in”, “a”, “it”, and “is” are all part of this very important list.  These words are phonetically irregular words, meaning you cannot use phonics to decode them so they must be learned by sight.  Knowing sight words is one of the basic building blocks when learning how to read and one that should not be ignored.

What happens if the Reading or Phonics program you selected does not include the teaching of sight words?  I suggest that you do it on your own and it is quite simple.  Am I saying that you shouldn’t teach Phonics? NO!  Never!  Phonics is important or just as important as teaching sight words.  Many programs fail to integrate both of these in their reading programs, which is unfortunate but important for homeschooling moms to know.  For the purpose of this post, I’m going to focus on sight words.

There are two lists but most of the words overlap;  Dolch Sight Words and Fry Sight Words are the two lists you can work from.  In the 1940s, Dr. Edward William Dolch used 220 phonetically irregular words and 95 common nouns to create his Dolch Sight Word List.  He chose words that were most often used in children’s reading books during the 1920s and 30s.  In the 1990s, Dr. Edward Fry took the Dolch researched list and created 1,000 most frequently used words and put them in order of frequency.  Children should be repeatedly exposed to these words so that they learn them quickly.  This bolsters their reading self-esteem, which in turn makes them want to read more.  You would be so surprised how your little Joseph or little Mary is going to want to start reading and selecting books at the library!

The Fry list is arranged by levels of difficulty advancing in it and the levels of infrequency.  Dr. Dolch created his lists to be mastered by the third grade while Dr. Fry’s list is separated by grade levels and goes up to the fifth or sixth grade.  Each list is separated by 100 words so the first 100 words are called pre-primer words and should be learned by kindergarten; the next words are learned in increments of 100 (I suggest they should only be taught 5-10 at a time until mastered).  Once those 10 are mastered, you teach another 5-10 but always exposing them to the previous ones either by games or flash cards as well as easy reader texts.

Here are the list of the Fry Sight Words for your use in PDF format:

First Hundred

Second Hundred

Third Hundred

Fourth Hundred

Fifth Hundred

Sixth Hundred

Seventh Hundred

Eighth Hundred

Ninth Hundred

Tenth Hundred

When you should start depends on your child’s ability.  For example, when my son was six years old he struggled in reading.  We studied the first two hundred words in kindergarten but he still was not very sure or solid reading them by sight and kept trying to phonetically sound them out.  So in the first grade we focused on mastering the following sight words:

Trimester 1:  Words 1-150
Trimester 2: Words 151-300
Trimester 3: Words 301-500

There are several ways to teach sight words.  Repetition is important in learning these words by sight, but it can be boring; it is vital that you make this as fun of an experience as possible! Here are some examples of things we have done:

1.   Make flash cards
2.   Play memory games
3.   Practice tracing the words
4.   Use tactile things like play dough mats or any multi-sensory way to create the words
5.   Create a power point of the words
6.   Use the words to create sentences
7.   Teach the shape of the word
8.   Play sight word games
9.   Make word pyramids of the words
10. Write the words in pen then have them trace using different colored highlighters

This next game I call: “Shake it, Roll it, and Write it!”  I’ve created a printable to share with you of this word game, and here are some pictures with my children when they were in kinder and first graders using this game to learn new words or practice old one.


With this printable you will be able to create seven blocks each unique to the other to create this game.


This is the recording sheet I created to accompany the game. I inserted ours in sheet protectors and the kids used dry erase markers.


Here are pictures of my children playing the game, they roll the die and use the letters to create words.  The longer the word the more points they get.  It is a great game to play on Mondays to get them going or even as a center when one or two children have finished work and you still need to finish working with other students.







Do you have other games or ways you work with words to help your children learn?  We would love to hear about them!

8 Replies to “Teaching Reading in your {Catholic} Homeschool”

  1. Erika ~
    Comprehensive and detailed! Love it.
    I am blogging a series for Natl Dyslexia Awareness Month, which is October, as my youngest has dyslexia/dysgraphia. I have found there is still a huge stigma attached to this LD (which is also a gift) Sharing if you don’t mind.
    http://campfiresandcleats.blogspot.com/2013/10/the-road-called-dyslexia-part-1.html and wanted to share some strategies which have worked for us and which have not….
    Your ideas for teaching sight words are awesome.


  2. This is great advice for normal, resistant readers. If your son was trying to sound out his sight words, then my guess is his problem was more of maturity and developmental readiness. In other words, frustrating, but traditional methods will work. If there’s something else going on, I would highly recommend trying the Wilson Method. It’s been like a miracle for us. Our 8 year old can finally read and is improving every single day.

    Although my understanding is that Wilson is available in a homeschooling kit, we did pay a Wilson tutor – twice a week for 45 minutes each time at a cost of $110 per week. I know that sounds expensive (and it is!) but it’s been worth every single penny. Had I known the improvement would be so dramatic in these seven short months, I wouldn’t have fretted about the cost at all.

  3. Thank you Chris!

    Thank you, Eileen. My son actually has a visual processing issue which is why he has trouble with Reading. But thanks be to God, with some methods I’ve been working with him on, he’s moving in the right direction. 🙂 What you describe does sound a little expensive to me. I have an MS in Reading K-12 and charged in Florida $50/hour once a week and in about three months (if other factors were not present) most of my students were reading at grade level. The key thing is figuring out and pinpoint what the reading issue is, sometimes it’s a physical issue, other times it is weak muscles in the eyes, like my son’s case. But I bet you were incredibly happy to find someone that could figure out the issue and help your 8 year old. 🙂 It’s worth every penny, reading is super important as it affects all other subjects. I do say to stay away from big centers like Sylvan or Huntington…they are too expensive and do not work on the issues, it’s like expensive tutoring instead of remediation! Blessings, Erika 🙂

  4. Many children can easily recognize sight words at an early age. However, very young children would benefit more from teaching them phonics first. This will enable them to combine sounds to pronounce words correctly. Once they know how to connect letters and sounds, you will be surprised that they are reading on their own already. I use a reading program from http://educationalfun.info for my 18 month old daughter. She is progressing at a rapid pace and soon, I’m sure she would be able to read sight words on her own.

  5. Daniel, Sight words cannot be decoded phonetically. Sight words are basically words that must be read by sight only. Phonics and phonemic awareness is also a crucial part of teaching and learning reading. There is no way to read a sight word phonetically because they do not follow any phonics rules.

  6. In my experience, yes it is fine to begin teaching reading and just ignore the writing components of whatever program you have chosen. My daughter was interested in starting to read at 4 also, but wasn’t ready to do lots of writing yet either. I did start teaching her basic handwriting at the same time, but not linked at all to our reading lessons. She has progressed MUCH farther with reading than with writing naturally, but she can write her name and the alphabet, we are just taking each skill at its own pace. She’s young yet, so we aren’t in any rush, just trying to enjoy the process. Hope you do as well. Another important of the teaching process I found ateducationalfun.info. Its really good online reading program that will ease the burden of teaching your children how to read.

    Dani Rren

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