What is a sight word?
Sight words are words that do not follow rules of spelling (standard phonetic patterns) or decoding, so children must memorize them. Starting in kindergarten, students are required to learn sight words as part of their balanced reading instruction. Teachers usually pick either the Dolch Words list or the Fry Words list to plug into their scope and sequence. Sight words are important because they make up 75% of the words in beginning readers.
How to teach 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 sight word, it's important to allow students experiences where they:
- See it
- Say it
- Spell it
- Write it
- Come up with a sequence. Find out how many sight words are required by your school district and plug them into you 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 sight words.
- Introduce one word at a time. This doesn't mean you can't teach more than one word a week. Give each word it's moment and the opportunity to use all of the learning strategies.
- See it, say it, spell it, write it–every single time you introduce a word.
- Review previous words.
- Reinforce with games, center activities, songs, and poems.
- Remember, repetition is key!
There are a few resources you will most likely find in every primary classroom in the country and a word wall is one of them. 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, our alphabet chart, our number line…these are all resources that are meant to foster independence in our young learners, and 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 sight words to the word wall as you teach them. Make sure they are clear and legible. Also, have students complete activities where they are finding words on the word wall to give them consistent interaction and engagement.
Every time I introduced a sight word, I always followed the same structure. First, we added the card to our word wall, and then used our strategies: see it, say it, spell it, write it. Next, we created a sight word reader that went into our book box and completed our sight word worksheet, which followed the same format each time to foster more independence. We also listened to our Heidi's Songs DVD, focusing on our new word. Finally, during center rotations, I had the same five sight words in every word work center for repetition. My students thrived with this routine!
Here are a few other fun songs and activities that were student favorites.
How do you teach sight words?
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