Sight Words & Orthographic Mapping
At the beginning of each school year, thousands of children are sent home with list of 'sight words' that they are required to memorise. And each year, many of these children wonder why this is so difficult. It is not long before some of them begin to feel inadequate because the words just don't stick - and this is confirmed for them when their inability to memorise words sets them apart from other children who can. This is often followed by the teaching of a variety of comprehension and word attack strategies designed to assist these children to 'find meaning' in what they read. However, as Dr. Anita Archer points out,
There is no comprehension strategy powerful enough
to compensate for the fact that you
can't read the words.
Anita Archer (2011) Explicit Instruction.
Early reading is enabled by language comprehension and word recognition, or the ability to consistently and independently decode words. (See the Simple View of Reading). Understanding how we remember the words we recognise as language and learn to decode is vital information for teachers.
Dr. David Kilpatrick explains below what science has taught us about how the brain learns to remember words and how they are stored in deep memory. These findings demonstrate that the more explicitly we can embed words in deep memory by helping children to attend to their structure, the more easily these structures will be able to be retrieved automatically within a split second when needed.
Dr. David Kilpatrick explains how this process of orthographic mapping, or the mapping of words to deep memory, is related to teaching.
Lyn Stone also explains this process in a short, concise video below.
Once language comprehension and decoding are well established, skilled readers recognise words almost instantly, enabling them to develop the ability to read with fluency and at speed and reducing the strain on working memory to comprehend (Kilpatrick 2015, p. 135).