Sight words also known as high frequency words have become the new math fact drill cards. It is TIME FOR CHANGE. The kill and drill word cards children see on the word wall, in a container to read through, and a teacher showing those words the same way she might show math facts, need a relook. Yes, all that has its place. However, more relevant, fun, and being intentional about who really needs the work on sight words, will give you more time and simplicity in your lesson delivery.
I see many activities on Pinterest and Teachers Pay Teachers which require A LOT more work for teachers. I’m all about simple and applicable for learning outcomes.
Imagine leaving at the end of the school day without worrying that when you return in the morning you’ll be cutting out 80, thousand word cards, finding a way to store them, display them, and keep them intact for the remainder of the school year!
Imagine students who are your least engaged, least active, least interested reversed!
3 simple ways to teach sight words without extra time, stress, or cursing:
- Keep the learning relevant and within context: Within the book preview/picture walk have students locate, point, and say up to 5 sight words you want them to have in their knowledge base. Say, “Find the word would, point to it and say it! Find it fast! These are words you need to know and read fast!” Continue the cycle through the sight words you have included for the lesson. Have students find any sight words from the book in multiple places in the book, wherever they show up. This is woven through the lesson. After reading, have a quick writing activity where the students write those very same sight words, say, “Write would, fast, as fast as you can!” (also provides a dose of fun, let them refer to the book or the list you may have written for additional support as they are learning them because you want to support that easy learning)
- Make it fun: Bring in the magnifying glasses from the science room, bring out the froo froo pointers, have the tongue depressors from the nurses office or your craft supplies with and arrow drawn on them for finding those words. Pens, erasers, pencils, straws, spoons, twigs, thin paint brushes or anything really that is slim could be used as a pointer, all while adding a bit of fun to it. And, very little fuss or prep on your part. Simple.
- Do not sight words teach unless necessary: There will only be certain students who need sight words woven into their reading lessons. Your top readers, your fluent readers, your strategic readers, your successful readers won’t need this as part of their lesson. Don’t waste your time and energy doing this for them. Focus on the ones who truly need it for more strategic reading!
I am astonished at what is going on and passing for literacy instruction in classes. It is likely related to my years of experience. So, I decided to take a look back… and I realized I was once that teacher. I was once the new teacher of literacy with very little idea of how to instruct readers in the early/primary grades.
The evidence, which I hear, echoing in classrooms during literacy lessons, “Sound it out,” each time a student is stuck while reading, is similar to these most disliked sounds – nails on a chalkboard or a knife scraping a plate – that screech which is an enormous sign to STOP what you’re doing.
I remember my first hire as THE reading specialist, the only one! I was on cloud nine. I was walked to my room (a custodial closet, next to the girl’s bathroom, that was a catch-all for every outdated book that existed in that school and some highly toxic drain openers) I was unwavering in my excitement. “I can make this work,” I thought, (as most teachers, every year, no matter her circumstances, especially in the primary grades).
My principal came to me one day, while I was dripping sweat from cleaning, to announce she had registered me for Reading Recovery. I would be committed to a year-long training. I would begin that training during the summer, which meant I would lose one entire week of summer to Reading Recovery’s introduction and initial training days.
After my room set-up was complete, the most important part loomed, instruction. In hindsight, I was clueless. I was “running off”, which is code for copying, phonics lessons from books, I was copying passages with comprehension questions at the end, I was giving students word searches, alphabet papers, then notebooks. In the notebooks, I had kids writing out the alphabet, writing based on prompts like, “What I did over the weekend,” or, “How to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.” I told myself, I was doing my work well, because I had small groups and I could focus in on individual students.
The fact of the matter was, I had no foundation for understanding how children learn to read or the system which reading is based.
That year-long Reading Recovery training was the key, the door, the everything to “how to” teach literacy.
As a trained Reading Recovery (RR) teacher – twice over because I had a gap of two years where I was not actively instructing students, designing lessons, or attending continued professional development, as a RR teacher. I consider myself well seasoned in the land of literacy for early/primary education/readers.
Are you graduating soon and stepping into your first teaching job in the early/primary grades?
Are you taking the plunge into homeschooling with your young ones?
I want to help you. I have answers. Click here for my freebie, “Three Powers to Help you be a Super-Hero-Reading-Teacher.”