Authors: Genevieve McArthu, Anne Castles, Saskia Kohnen, Linda Larsen, Kristy Jones, Thushara Anandakumar, Erin Banales.

Article: Sight Word and Phonics Training in Children With Dyslexia.

Publication: Journal of Learning Disabilities (Sage Journals). 48(4), 391–407 2013 | DOI: 10.1177/0022219413504996

[Full Text]

The aims of this study were to (a) compare sight word training and phonics training in children with dyslexia, and (b) determine if different orders of sight word and phonics training have different effects on the reading skills of children with dyslexia. One group of children (n = 36) did 8 weeks of phonics training (reading via grapheme–phoneme correspondence rules) and then 8 weeks of sight word training (reading irregular words as a whole), one group did the reverse (n = 36), and one group did phonics and sight word training simultaneously for two 8-week periods (n = 32). We measured the effects of phonics and sight word training on sight word reading (trained irregular word reading accuracy, untrained irregular word reading accuracy), phonics reading (nonword reading accuracy, nonword reading fluency), and general reading (word reading fluency, reading comprehension). Sight word training led to significant gains in sight word reading measures that were larger than gains made from phonics training, phonics training led to statistically significant gains in a phonics reading measure that were larger than gains made from sight word training, and both types of training led to significant gains in general reading that were similar in size. Training phonics before sight words had a slight advantage over the reverse order. We discuss the clinical implications of these findings for improving the treatment and assessment of children with dyslexia.

Tagged as: phonics, reading instruction, and sight words


McArthur, G., Castles, A., Kohnen, S., Larsen, L., Jones, K., Anandakumar, T., & Banales, E. (2015). Sight Word and Phonics Training in Children With Dyslexia. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 48(4), 391–407.

Excerpts from Full Text / Notes:

Does the Order of Sight Word and PhonicsTraining Matter? 

Fortunately, for all but one outcome, the mixed + mixed group made similar gains as the phonics + sight word group and sight word + phonics group. The exceptional outcome was trained irregular words, for which the mixed + mixed group (and sight word + phonics group) made significantly greater gains in their first 8 weeks of training than the phonics + sight word group. Thus, there appears no general disadvantage (or advantage) for training phonics and sight word reading simultaneously in children with dyslexia.

Clinical Implications

Second, the outcomes of this study support the idea that many children with dyslexia need more than just phonics training. They also need to be trained how to read whole words by sight. Sight word training is particularly important for irregular words, which this study revealed are most effectively learned via explicit training of the words themselves rather than via phonics or other sight words.

Third, contrary to the beliefs of some reading professionals, training children to read irregular words will not impair their ability to read via the letter-sound rules. Children with dyslexia who did sight training (i.e., with irregular words) in this study did not regress on the tests of phonics reading (i.e., nonword reading accuracy and the nonword reading fluency) or tests of both phonics and sight word reading (i.e., word reading fluency and reading comprehension).

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