Sight Word Categories (Falcon and Simms, 1985) Background and Research Question

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Sight Word Categories

(Falcon and Simms, 1985)
Background and Research Question

High frequency sight words are a relatively small number of words that account for a high percentage of all running text. Studies of print have found that just about 109 words account for nearly 50 percent of all words in textbooks. Children sometimes have difficulty learning these words because many of the words are low imagery function words such as the, and, of, etc. Dr. Rochelle Simms and Susan Claire Falcon conducted a study to see whether grouping sight words into logical categories would help children learn the high frequency words more effectively.

Translating Research Into Practice

  1. Divide any list of sight words into categories such as talk words (e.g., call, say, tell, said, ask, etc.) and size words (e.g., big, light, little, long, small, etc.). For words that don’t always fit into categories, create a category called other words.

  1. Preassess students on their knowledge of the high frequency words.

  1. Record results on a chart to show which word categories have and have not been learned.

  1. In small groups, introduce the word categories in which children knew few or no words.

  1. Students work on their own or in small groups to master a word category before advancing to another category.

  1. Introduce each new category and discuss the words. Make the words meaningful to enhance children’s learning.

  1. Have children prepare their own set of word cards after introducing each category.

  1. Schedule practice opportunities for children to learn the words.

  1. Prepare a progress chart that lists the categories and includes a space for the child to mark off or place a sticker when each category is mastered.


Falcon, S.C. and Simms, R.B. (1985). A word-category approach to teaching sight words. Reading Improvement, 20, 126–137.

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