high frequency words · teaching thoughts · topic

Sight Word Work

Ok… today’s post will be a bit of a tangent for me. Typically I pick a story and then provide an activity or two to work on related to the story. But, over the weekend a friend asked me for help, so I’m going to share some of this advice with the rest of you.

Many primary teachers (K, 1, and 2… and sadly often even some preK teachers) expect children to master sight words. While I will not get into my opinion on this, I will provide you with an explanation of sight words AND some fun ways to practice.

Sight words, are words that your child read by sight, they master and never need to decode again. The reason mastering sight words is important is for reading fluency. When children have a mastery of sight words (a, the, in, it, is, look etc… ), then when they encounter these words in reading they just know the word and can move forward in reading harder words that (s)he may need to decode. Different schools use different sight word, or high frequency word, lists. Often times they are set by the reading program that the school uses.

Parents often ask, should my child learn to just read these words or do they need to know how to spell them too? While most teachers assess sight words by showing flash cards and having children read them, they often also assume that your child will also be able to use them in writing. My belief is that you should help your child learn to write the word. If you can write it, typically can read it. Just because I can read something does not mean I can spell it on my own.

Activities to help learn sight words:

  • write the words!: pencils, crayons, markers, chalk, paint, water, any medium you can
  • build the words: magnetic letters, play dough, letter blocks, other letter toys
  • play games with the words: bingo, matching
  • Candyland sight words: assign a sight word for each of the colors on the board, have your child draw a card and then read or write the word that matches the color before moving along the path
  • Bang- create flashcards with the sight words include in the stack 2 or 3 “bang” cards. When your child(ren) go through the stack, have him/her read the card they draw. If they get it correct, they keep the card, if they get it wrong it goes back in the pile. If they draw a bang card, they put all of their cards back. The person with the most cards at the end wins
  • Flashlight find- put the words on post-it notes and hang them around the room. turn the lights off and use a flashlight to find the words. Have your child spell and say the word or use it in a sentence.
  • Magazine hunt: provide your child with magazine and have him/her search through the pages to find the sight words. Cut the words out and make sentences on flashcards. Then use these sentences to review the sight words
  • Highlighter reading: Copy a page or two from a favorite story. Provide a highlighter and have your child find the sight words in the text. Show him/her how to use the highlighter to highlight the sight words.
  • Cloze sentences: write sentences with a sight words missing. Have your child read the sentence and determine what sight word belongs. _____ dog ran fast. Simon likes ____ play _____ Lego blocks.
  • Sight word Twister, Hopscotch, Mazes: create “game boards” with chalk, tape or items. Use the sight words on the spaces or as part of the movement in these games.

Here is the key… MAKE IT FUN! While flashcards are simple and yes they work… they aren’t fun and do not make a lot of connections. Children need to see the word in text to make the connection to the reading AND they need to do something with the word to make additional connections. The more you do with the words, the stronger the connections will be.. the faster they will not only learn the word for the assessment, but also master it for ownership in reading.

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