Tips for Commonly-Confused Sight Words

The other day, I was watching the movie Molly’s Game and said to my husband, “Wow, that’s a very different role from the one she played in Jurassic World!” 

“That’s a different actress,” he replied.

“No way!” I argued.

Of course, he was right when we Googled it.

Besides the fact that Jessica Chastain and Bryce Dallas Howard are both drop-dead gorgeous, they also share very similar features (supposedly, even Ron Howard mistook Chastain for his own daughter)!

Well, this reminded me of how some words can be super tricky for kids because of how similar they are, too!

Take a look at some “doppelganger” words:

for, from

no, on

me, my

saw, was

These words may be easy for us to read but, for beginning readers, their similarities make them extra tricky!

If you have students who consistently mistake 2 words no matter what you’ve tried, here are some tips that may help!

Tips for Tricky, Similar Words

Separate instruction. Teach just one of the words first, separating it from the instruction of the other word, until it’s mastered.

Come up with an aid: visual (ex: highlighting the first letter, making the Os in ‘look’ into eyes), saying, or movement can help with memory. 

Trace on different textures. Have the student finger-trace one word on sandpaper and the other on a smooth surface. Be consistent with the word and texture chosen.

Sound it out. Many sight words are actually decodable, so have them practice sounding the words out, sliding a finger under the word. If it is a non-decodable word, discuss the parts that are phonetic (s and d in said), then the part that’s “tricky.” What sound is it making? What letters are representing that sound in the word? Highlighting these parts will help them orthographically map out words and remember them.

Students can also practice mapping out words using my Word Mapping Sight Word Practice Pages. Students can write the separate sounds in each box and use the dots to help them sound out the word. There is also room for the student to practice writing out the word. 

These word mapping pages are a great way for Kindergarten and First Grade students to practice similar sight words.

Connect to other words with a similar spelling pattern, when possible. “If I can read go and so, I can read no.” Discuss the pattern and this will help with not only this word but also when encountering future “open-syllable” words. 

Put it to a song! A familiar tune can help kids remember how to spell a word. Here are some easy examples:

  • 3-letter words:Three Blind Mice (t-h-e, t-h-e, that spells the…)
  • 4-letter words:Frere Jacques or Head and Shoulders, Knees and Toes (f-r-o-m, that spells from, from up high, from down low [with movements])
  • 5-letter words:B-I-N-G-O and of course, you have to play with omitting one letter at a time then adding them back! (There is a tricky word we know but we know how to spell it: t-h-e-r-e, t-h-e-r-e, t-h-e-r-e, and that’s how we spell there!) 
  • 6-letter words:A Tisket a Tasket (n-u-m-b-e-r, that’s number and I know it…)

Add Movement

Movement is scientifically proven to be linked with increased academic performance (and it helps with engagement)! When you can incorporate movement in sight word instruction, it’s a huge help. 

To help my students, I created PowerPoint presentations for 120 high-frequency words. We love these because each includes 7 different activities that get kids moving to learn the words: making the words with their bodies, sky-writing, pointing, and more!

Body-Spelling Sight Words: includes 120 words to be used in any order

Some high-frequency words can be very tricky to remember and kindergarten and first grade students often confuse them. Here are some tips for helping kids remember tricky sight words.- how to read and spell them.

Finally, after kids master one of the “doppelganger words”, point out the features that set the new word apart from the mastered one.

If you want to read more about incorporating movement and/or body-spelling, check out these blog posts:

5 Ways to Incorporate Movement in Sight Word Instruction

A Peek into Body-Spelling Sight Words (with a freebie)

Did you find any of these helpful? What have you tried that works? Comment below!

P.S. If you want a way to tell Jessica and Bryce apart, Jessica has a thinner face and blue eyes while Bryce’s face is fuller and she has green eyes, soooooo (to the tune of Frere Jacques):

Blue-eyed Jessica, blue-eyed Jessica,

Thinner face, thinner face,

She’s the Dark Phoenix,

Also in The Martian,

She’s not Bryce, she’s not Bryce!

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