A reader sent me this question last week:
Help, please. My daughter's teacher has asked that we work on sight words, and I don't know exactly where to start. We have practiced reading through the list, but she gets frustrated SO easily. Suggestions?
Yes! One of the first things I got from my son's Kindergarten teacher was a list of sight words to work on. I felt a flash of gratitude for my teaching experience with struggling readers, because the list was enough to overwhelm any parent.
Sight words, or high frequency words, are words that appear all of the time in text, like the, and, friend and because. The teacher wants your child to memorize these words to build reading fluency and ultimately reading comprehension. Reading would be a very tedious and useless task if you had to puzzle over like or when each time they appeared.
The basic goal of practicing sight words is to get the reader to memorize the words. To develop automaticity with sight words, children need as many opportunities as possible to read the words. All good sight word activities (and I will share some these later in the post) are variations on the same work:
- See the word - read the word
- Hear the word - find the word - read the word
- See the word - write/make the word - read the word
Before you click over to Pinterest to start finding activities, here are some important steps to ensure sight word learning success.
1. Assess your child. Don't waste time studying words your child has already memorized. Find out which words your child can read within 3 seconds. Make a special list, bulletin board or folder for these known words so that your child can see her own progress. The words your child has to puzzle over or doesn't know at all are your target words to practice at home. Repeat the assessment periodically so your efforts are always focused on words that are hard for your child.
Some children are very reluctant to even look at a long list of words for an "assessment". Write just a few on a separate piece of paper, or hide most of the list, and say "Are there any words on this list you already know? Can you read them to me? We are going to do some fun activities to learn the other words". You don't need to assess your child on the whole list at once, just continue until you have a good list of words to work on.
2. Narrow your focus. Choose just a few words at a time to practice. The exact number of words will depend on the child, but I would start with 4-10 words and see how it goes. It is always better to start small and give the child the opportunity to experience success. For the target words, find sight word practice activities from the internet, make flash cards, and/or write them on post-its and stick them all over your home.
3. Maximize opportunities to respond. The more times the child reads the word, the better. Most of the activities on the internet and on Pinterest are just fun, multi-sensory ways to get children to respond to sight words. Make sure that your daughter is reading the words out loud on every turn of the game or every step of the activity. Some of my favorite phrases for this kind of practice are "What word? Can you read those 5 words again? Read the word one more time in your silliest voice."
4. Don't lose sight of what's important - reading! Your child's teacher has asked you to practice sight words to help your child learn to read. By following my tips you can accomplish a lot in only a few minutes, so don't let sight words take over your regular reading time. Reading books is too important to skip.
Here are a few of my favorite sight word activities from Pinterest:
A few sight word products:
I hope that helps! Does anyone else have a winning sight word strategy to share?