What is a sight word?
Sight words are common words that do not follow spelling rules (standard phonetic patterns) or decoding, so children must memorize them. Starting in kindergarten, students must learn sight words as part of their balanced reading instruction. A great way to memorize them is with a sight words list. Teachers usually pick the Dolch Sight Word list or the Fry Sight Word list to plug into their scope and sequence. Sight words are important because they make up 75% of the words for early readers.
How to Teach Kindergarten Sight Words
Research suggests that a whole-word, visual discrimination approach using the following strategies may be the most effective way to teach sight words. Each time you introduce a word, it's essential to give students activities where they:
- See it
- Say it
- Spell it
- Write it
Success Tips for Sight Word Instruction
- Come up with a sequence. Find out how many sight words your school district requires and plug them into your scope and sequence. If you don't have a list provided, look at your readers. If your students are required to be an independent level 4 (D) by the end of the year, pull several books from levels A-D and teach the most used words.
- Introduce one word at a time. This doesn't mean you can't teach more than one word a week. Focus on one target word at a time using all learning strategies. Then, introduce another word and repeat the process.
- See it, say it, spell it, and write it every time you introduce a word.
- Review previous words.
- Reinforce with games, center activities, songs, and poems.
- Remember, repetition is key!
You will most likely find a few resources in every primary classroom in the country, and a word wall is one of them. Unfortunately, it's also probably the most underutilized resource in the primary classroom. Here's the deal; if we don't use the word wall, our students won't use the word wall. The word wall, alphabet chart, and number line are all resources meant to foster independence in young learners, yet we don't teach students how to use them. I challenge you to reference the world wall ten times a day to make it a habit. That may seem like a lot, but I promise you, it is easier than you realize.
Add a new sight word to the word wall as you teach it, making sure they are clear and legible. Also, have students complete activities to find words on the word wall to give them consistent interaction and engagement. The more your kindergarten students become accustomed to a sight word routine, the easier sight word recognition becomes.
Every time I introduce a sight word, I follow the same structure. First, we add the sight word card to our word wall and then use our strategies: see it, say it, spell it, write it. Next, we create a sight word reader that goes into our book box. Then, we complete our sight word worksheet, which follows the same format each time to foster more independence. Next, we listen to our Heidi's Songs DVD, focusing on our new word. Finally, during center rotations, I use the same five sight words in every word work center for repetition. My students thrive with this routine!
Here are a few other fun songs and activities that were student favorites.
Other Fun Ways to Teach Sight Words
Some other fun sight word activities are sight word flashcards, sight word scavenger hunts, and sound boxes. Sight word flashcards are great for introducing whole words that your students can keep and study throughout the year. For example, write a few high frequency words on index cards, make plenty of copies, and hand them out to your students. Then, as part of the students' daily routine, have them say each sight word. Then, after your students master a few basic sight words, you can have them pick the words out of a reading passage!
In addition, sight word scavenger hunts are a good way to introduce new words that your students have to find! For example, you can write a set of words onto sticky notes and place them around your classroom. Once your students find them, have them say the right word.
Lastly, magnetic letters are a great tool for introducing sight words to young readers. For example, you can create a list of sight words using the magnetic letters. Say each word and have your students repeat after you. Then, you can have them write down the words they see and hear. Your students can also take turns spelling each sight word with individual letters. In addition, you can have your students write an original sentence using a sight word from the list of words. If they aren't that advanced yet, you can write a sentence and have them identify the sight word(s) in the sentence.
Final Thoughts on Teaching Sight Words to Kindergarteners
Using different ways to teach sight words reinforces learning and develops strong readers. Once students learn to identify all the words on their sight word lists, their reading skills enhance dramatically! In addition, creating a sight word lesson plan is a great way to target these complex words and develop fluent readers!
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