You've probably been here. Your child brings home a list of sight words to memorize. One of my last tasks before summer break as a literacy paraeducator (aka reading with kids 1 on 1) in the first grade classroom was to make rings of "power words" for next year's first graders to memorize. It gave me major ick factor because I know that memorization doesn't work!
Mistake # 2: Focusing on "sight words"
Our brains don't store words as pictures (aka memorizing whole words). Our brain connects sounds (phonemes) to their symbols (graphemes or phonograms.) Think of the English language as a secret code. The kind you used when you were young. You know, connecting letters to numbers or pictures, then writing secret messages that your friend had to decode.
English is the same way! A letter or letter combination represents a sound. That is how we learn to read and how words are stored in our brains. Then you take that knowledge of the code to decode words, mapping them in your brain so that they will be there forever.
So what happens when we memorize words? They are NOT stored in the brain forever because they are stored in short term memory. Plus there are only a certain number of words our brains can store as whole words. That's why you see the "fourth grade slump." Students have maxed out the number of words they can memorize and fall behind in reading. So what can you do?
Solution: Teach sound-spellings
Focus on the sounds rather than the whole words. And yes, you can do this at home even if the school isn't teaching sound-spellings. Teach your child the sounds that letters and letter combinations (phonograms or graphemes) spell. Once your child knows these, they can sound out "sight words."
What about words that have irregular spellings? Here's the thing. Most "sight words" only have 1 or 2 irregular parts. Some of them you are able to completely sound out once you know those phonics patterns and phonograms.
But yes, there are some exceptions, like the word of where neither /o/ nor /f/ spell their normal phonemes. That's when you'd use the heart word method. I like how Really Great Reading explains it in heart word magic here. Then they just have to focus on the irregular part, the heart.
Questions? Let me know in the comments so that I can help you. My mission is to empower you to help your child become a skilled reader with ease, confidence, and pleasure.