What are Sight Words?

This can be confusing, as science tells us the most powerful mechanism for eventually accessing words by sight is use of the graphophonemic structure, a process that amalgamates the word’s units into memory (Ehri, 1978).


So we choose to apply the science ! We teach these words ALONGSIDE the phonics teaching (because one or more
grapheme is often NOT covered within the 4 Code Levels) and also because they need to see these spelling patterns.

Access the videos in the SSP Monster Mapping (paid) app or those shown on this page, for FREE !

Start Duck Level 1 alongside the Green Code Level. Students then work through at their pace.

Here, we have 'Code Mapped' the phonemes to graphemes in the first Fry and Dolch words to show you how it can be easy for children to not only read but also spell these commonly used words when writing (ie apply the knowledge) Again, research shows the importance of teach high-frequency words along with phonemic awareness, individual letter–sound relationships, and a concept of word (e.g., Flanagan, 2007). We have also 'Monster Mapped' the words, so that children know WHICH phonemes (speech sounds) map with each grapheme. New to the approach? Learn the Monster Sounds using the 2 Minute Video (also available in the
SSP Monster Mapping appLearn about the Speech Sound (phoneme) Monsters here  

As you will understand, from reading our site pages, we take a 'speech to print' approach. Our activities potentially help to facilitate 'orthographic mapping' more than, say, a 'synthetic' phonics approach. Most phonics programs expect to teach children to decode, and when they can't do so they should apply 'rules'; many teaching phonics (eg using OG type programs) want children to break the work into syllables, look for the 'vowel sounds' etc. Most talk about 'irregular' words as if these are word children will really struggle to understand, and so they primarily avoid them in the early stages. We start 'code mapping' high frequency words with one or more 'sound pic' (grapheme) that they do not cover in the 4 code levels, from the beginning !


Look at this 'Green Code Level Reader. Students will be reading this within the first few weeks of Kindergarten 

The graphemes s a t p i n are used as well
as Code Mapped words 
i/s  a  th/e  h/ere  I  s/ai/d   M/u/m  oh

Even though they will easily decode 'Mum' within the Purple Code Level the graphemes are as unfamiliar as the /ai/ in the word 'said' 

You can see that the 'detective' is telling the child to figure it out ! It's not in their code level, but they can figure out what the word is, and then know which speech sound that sound pic represents ! They are 'self-teaching' - they are becoming orthographic mappers within weeks! The activities are teaching a child how to 'track backwards' from speech to print; they couldn't get there by trying to apply the knowledge they have from their phonics instruction. When they need to spend ages trying to split the word into syllables (and so have to try to understand that first) it can put the children off wanting to learn as so laborious (and often they still can't figure out the word !) When YOU can't figure out a word what do YOU do? Don't you try to figure out the meaning from the context? And don't you think your brain is trying to recall the word; see if it could be a visual representation for a spoken word you know? You might then think 'oh, didn't realise it was spelt like that!' ... and you store it for future use.       

When a child doesn't read the word with automaticity their eyes will rest on the word and they will try to work it out; if they don't work it out within a second or so we 'follow the sounds' so they can blend and carry on. This means that while the child has paused they HEAR the phonemes, while LOOKING at the graphemes, and when we 'code map' the text we are making it even easier for them to recognise the spelling patterns. It also means they don't have to stop thinking about the MEANING of the text, to focus on that isolated word. They go back to it afterwards and 'Monster Map' it. 

I posted this on facebook a while ago, to show that what they may think of as 'three cueing' can actually be of benefit to the child, if they naturally 'code map' or if they have been taught to do so.  I had pointed out that the child would work out that it's likely 'coffee', and THEN think 'oh, ok, so those squiggles (sound pics?) must be c/o/ff/ee. 

What we WANT is for a child to realise what an unknown word is, even if they have never seen those spelling patterns before, as the brain will just accept it and store in; and why the speedy sight word videos are so effective. They see the word, hear me say the sounds - and then it becomes known. It is also why we need children to TALK a lot. The more words they know the easier it is for them to figure out what a word must be (even though they don't have the grapheme knowledge ie can't 'decode' using phonics) and THEN work backwards and code map it (map the graphemes to phonemes)

When I posted this it was ironic that it was the 'pro-phonics' groups that were appalled. They insisted that the child must not 'guess' from context or the picture.    

But this is exactly what Dr Kirkpatrick describes here !

So hopefully you can now see why these 'code mapped' high frequency word videos are GOLD for brains ! They are also incredibly helpful to teachers as the children can learn to read and spell far more words than in a group or whole class 'taught' session. These are 'teacherless teaching tools'     

Ehri, L.C. (1978). Beginning reading from a psycholinguistic perspective: Amalgamation of word identities. In F.B. Murray, (Ed.), The development of the reading process (International Reading Association Monograph No. 3). Newark, DE: International Reading Association.

Flanigan, K. (2007). A concept of word in text: A pivotal event in early reading acquisition. Journal of Literacy Research, 39(1), 37–70.

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© 2020 Wiring Brains for Literacy using SSP

The Speech Sound Pics (SSP) Approach. Wiring Brains® for Literacy. Code Mapping® and Monster Mapping®
Build a Speech Sound Wall with the SSP Spelling Clouds
What are sight words?