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Many people use the phrases “sight-word” and “vocabulary word” interchangeably, when they are quite different. This confusion, I believe, serves a sinister purpose for our Education Establishment.
A sight-word is a one-dimensional object. You know it visually, that’s all. When you see the graphic design, you are supposed to respond in an automatic or conditioned way. You say the sound represented by the design. The Education Establishment pretends this is “reading” but it’s not.
Hand - Word - Object - Sounds - Letters
On the other hand, a vocabulary word is a multi-dimensional object. Most importantly, you know it phonetically. You say the sounds represented by the letters. This is real reading although the Education Establishment would like to pretend otherwise.
When Whole Word was first introduced circa 1931, the phrase sight-word had a very precise, very limited definition. Remember that children did not learn the alphabet or the sounds. Spelling or sounding out a sight-word was out of the question. Students might know many hundreds of sight-words and not be able to spell any of them, or sound them out.
Word - Dimensions - Word - Ways - Syllables
As noted, a vocabulary word has many dimensions. You interact with a vocabulary word in several ways. You can spell it. You can sound it out. You know its syllables. You know its meaning. You might know the origins of the word. You might know synonyms. In short, you really know a vocabulary word.
Vocabulary words are wonderful and every child should memorize as many vocabulary words as possible. Traditional education has always included booklets with lists of vocabulary words for children to learn. We need to return to this practice and double down on it.
Hand - Child - Sight-word - Waste - Time
On the other hand, no child needs to know even one sight-word. They are a waste of time and, and beyond that, actually destructive. They clutter up the brain with things you don’t need to memorize, and prevent...
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