Should You Use Phonics or Sightwords to Teach Reading?

Back when many of us were learning to read, it was all about memorization. But today, phonics play a much bigger part of learning to read. 

So which is more important when it comes to learning to read? Should you focus on sight words or phonics?

The answer, is actually both. Both sight words and phonics are equally important when it comes to learning to read. And I believe they should both be taught at the same time, with equal time spent on both. 

young girl holding up a sight word flash card

First, let’s talk about sight words. 

Sight words are made up of the most commonly used words. These are the words your child will come across in books the most often, which means committing them to memory will increase their reading speed and confidence. 

Many sight words are also words that are nearly impossible to sound out. Words like one, said, does, could and should. Imagine how frustrating it is for a child who only knows how to sound out words phonetically to come across one of these words in a book or sentence!

sight word worksheets
These sight word worksheets are part of the Sight Word Activity Bundle– and give your child daily practice for over 100 sight words!

Daily learning and memorization practice of sight words should be part of every child’s reading curriculum. Start with one word a day, and make sure to add in plenty of review. 

The Sight Word Activity Bundle gives you daily worksheets- plus review games for over 100 sight words, so your child can gain speed and confidence in their new reading skills. 

Now, let’s talk about phonics. 

Phonics are just as important as sight words- because they give your child the ability to decode almost any word they come across. That means once they have learned all of the letters, blends, digraphs, etc. They will have the tools to sound out and read almost any word. 

And that’s a big thing!

Overtime, your child will commit this knowledge to memory and it will help them as they get older. A knowledge of phonics helps your child with other subjects such as spelling as well. 

Basically, phonics helps teach kids to crack the code of the English language and then apply that code to anything they need to read or spell. 

Studying word families is a great way to practice applying phonetic principles to sounding out words!

So why should you teach phonics and sight words together?

Phonics is the code, but sight words give your child speed and fluency. 

You can compare this to the way we teach young kids math. When adding and subtracting are first introduced, we use manipulatives such as coins, counters, or pictures to help them see what’s going on. They have to know the WHY and HOW behind addition and subtraction to fully understand. 

But as your child grows, you have to commit these facts to memory. They have to know all of the addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division facts by memory or it hinders their progress as they get into more and more complex mathematics. 

This is similar to how phonics and sight words work together. Phonics is like using manipulatives, but eventually your child will need to commit more and more words to memory so that they can read with speed and fluency.

Eventually, every word will be a sight word. And the more practice you can give your child, the quicker their progress will be. 

Resources like the Sight Word Activity Bundle and the Word Family Learning Bundle can help your child get the practice they need for learning sight words and practice sounding out words phonetically.