Thursday, August 6, 2015

Introducing Sight Words

Initially, I thought about titling this post, "Introducing Sight Words to Toddlers," but honestly the age of the child doesn't really matter. I taught sight words to kindergarteners and second graders as well as many struggling readers up through fifth grade, but if I were working with an illiterate adult, I'd do it the same way. The main reason for this is because the process is universal, but the application is tailored to meet the needs of whom ever you are working with. That might be hard to understand at this point, but keep reading... You'll see what I mean in a minute.

Many people are worried about what order the words should be introduced. Different boxed curriculums introduce sight words in different orders. If you choose to follow a box curriculum, then it is best to follow the order prescribed by that curriculum. Before buying it, I suggest looking through the list of sight words in the order they are introduced. In the beginning of the list, you want to see words that are not only simple to read because they have few letters, but also the words that are the most frequently used words. (Words like:  I, a, go, you, see) In addition to that, look through the first 5 words and ask yourself, "Can I make a sentence with these words?" Reading a simple sentence like, "I see you" and building onto it like, "I see you go" can help a child realize that they can read early on in the process. I know that sounds silly. Here you are teaching your child words and you expect them to automatically think they are learning to read, but from my experience, especially when working with struggling learners, THEY DON'T. They need proof that they can read. Being able to read simple words is not enough, they need to be about to read sentences, find the words in books, and put the sentences together to make stories early on. Usually after you celebrate your student when they finally put all the words they know together to read a simple book or two, they look at you with big eyes as if the light bulb finally comes on... "Oh! I can read!" Seriously, this is the best moment about teaching reading!

You don't have to use a box curriculum to teach sight words, although it does come in handy if you don't feel confident about what you're doing. For teachers that do feel confident with their abilities to know their students reading skills and make appropriate decisions, not having a box curriculum to follow can be liberating! Allowing your child's environment to determine what sight words are introduced first, because they come up in real words situations is the most effective way for children to learn. In fact, don't let a box curriculum halt you from introducing a sight word that comes up naturally. If your child notices the word STOP while you're walking around the block, take a minute and talk about it. Add it to your flashcard stack of words your child practices. Your student will learn it quickly because he or she has a visual representation to draw from. Then, when that word comes up in the order of the curriculum they can breeze right through it feeling highly successful!

As I just mentioned, I made sight words for my students. In fact when I taught kindergarten and second grade each of my 24 + students had their own stack of sight words to learn. Some had two or three if they were just beginning to read while others may had 40 or more. That might sound mind boggling, but over the years, I got quite organized on how to do that and I share with you how you can do it too. Check out Kindergarten Reading Folder: Sight Word Log, but don't let the word kindergarten scare you away no matter what age your child is. You can also find how I organize teaching letters HERE and numbers HERE! Or click the pictures below!
 These flashcards are multi-purpose. First, you play games with your student to practice reading the sight words. Then, you use them as an assessment tool to make sure you are not moving forward too fast or too slow for the student. 

Whether your student is 2 or 200 years old, he or she is going to be more interested in learning to read if it is fun. Games are a great way to teach your student to read words. Check out a previous post I wrote listing some games I've played with my students to learn sight words HERE. Sure, any game will work, but if you take into consideration your child's interests, they will be more engaged in the learning and you know what that means... 

1. They'll have more motivation to keep going once they've made a mistake. 

2. They'll want to spend more time playing (shhhhh... learning)!

3. They'll think learning the words is fun, not work.

All of this adds up to learning the words faster and remembering the words better!

For example, my son (age 4) loves is obsessed with trains! In the picture below, we're playing a game called Rocks on the Tracks. Note how easy this is... Setting up games does NOT have to take tons of time and fancy materials. I tossed his sight word flashcards down on the floor face down in a circle from the beginning of his train to the end of his train. Each time he got to a rock (flashcard), he picked it up and read the word on it, which allowed him to move the rock (to me). He enjoyed this so much that he wanted to give each of his engines a turn to go first riding around the track removing rocks. 

Another important part of practicing the words is making up sentences with them. Remember, this is what turns the light bulb on for them to see they really do know how to read.

1. You can put words in the order of a sentence for your student to read.

2. You can tell your student a sentence and have him or her find the words and put them in order. 

Last, is the assessment piece. Again, the products above help organize this so it's easy to see when a student is ready for new sight words and when they need to slow down and review (play more games) with what they already have. Some children are capable of learning 4 - 5 sight words at a time while others need to learn them one at a time. If the child proves he or she has mastered all previous sight words, obviously he or she is ready to add to his or her word list. I never add new sight words for a child that has missed two or more words. For struggling readers, all sight words must be mastered before I introduce a new one. These students need to continue practicing the words they have even if the box curriculum says it is time to move on. If this is the case, repeat a previous lesson, play a game, work on sentences, but do NOT move forward just because the curriculum says this is the next lesson to teach. 

Best wishes on your sight word teaching experiences! Let me know how things are working for you. If you have any further questions about helping your student, just ask in the comments below and I will be happy to help you! Also, if you have any fun games you've played, feel free to share your ideas or a link to a blog post below! This is a community with a collaborative spirit where we can help and learn from each other! 

God Bless Your Learning Journey ~

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