Sight words are common words kids will encounter in grade-level texts. The Fry sight word lists contain 1,000 of these words from pre-k through 5th-grade levels while the Dolch sight word lists feature 220 words from pre-k through 3rd-grade levels and includes a separate 95-word noun list. These words can often have tricky pronunciations and/or do not follow common phonics “rules.”
Teaching these words can be a challenge and the key components are variety and repetition. The more times a child sees, recognizes, reads, writes, or manipulates the words, the more familiar they become. You may be wondering how to best teach these on a practical level. Well, keep reading for some helpful tips.
9 Teaching Tips for Sight Words
- Start small: don’t try to teach the entire set at once. Start with a few words at a time and then, as you add more words, incorporate the previously learned ones into new lesson plans.
- Use repetitive texts: find books or sheets that repeat the same beginning part of the sentence. “I have a”, “It is a”, “I like to”, etc. are great sentence starters that kids can use to practice the same common words again and again with some variations.
- Don’t be afraid to get messy: kids learn by moving and playing, and yes, getting messy. Even though it means you’ll have to clean up, adding tactile ways to learn will help kids master the words faster since you engage their mind, body, and creative sides. Let kids write words in shaving cream, sand, with playdough, paint, or anything that helps them move.
- Hands-on activities: any activity where kids can touch, move, manipulate, order, cut, or glue is guaranteed to be a hit. These types of activities also help young children with fine motor skills.
- Read: grabbing a grade-level book or printout and reading will reinforce the words and put them into context. If using photocopies, you can have children highlight the words you are working on to keep them at the forefront of their minds.
- Add visuals: having a reference point such as a word wall with pictures associated with the words gives a visual connection to each word.
- Make learning a game: everyone loves a game! Turn learning into a game by searching for sight word practice games online. Whether you are playing a matching game, a race, or you come up with a totally unique option on your own, games motivate kids to learn and practice.
- Songs and rhymes: a catchy tune, story, or rhythmic poem using sight words or spelling them out will get the words stuck in their heads which creates perfect practice anywhere, anytime.
- Practice, practice, practice: this brings us to the most important aspect; practice. Reading, writing, recognizing, and utilizing sight words requires repetition and plenty of practice. The more ways you can get words in front of a child, the quicker they’ll pick them up.
Teaching kids sight words is a progressive task that takes time. As they learn a few words at a time, they will increase their vocabulary, reading, and writing skills. Provide a variety of ways for them to practice and they’ll pick them up quickly and be reading before you know it.