Today’s post is inspired by my find this week at the Target Dollar Bins! I came across $1 magnetic letters and a cute $3 Crayola tin container. I got excited to bring magnetic letters to my tutoring students to help them work on their sight words.
Beginning readers have so much to think about as they’re trying to read new books. Does it look right? Does it sound right? Does it make sense?
Because they have so much to think about as it is, helping them memorize their sight words is very important and helps them become more confident readers in these early stages. This can be done with PreK – 3rd grade students modified according to their needs.
“The Dolch word list includes the most common 220 words and 95 nouns encountered in children’s books. Dolch words, or sight words, are critical in early reading development because they represent high-frequency words and are difficult to sound out or to illustrate.”
I use Dolch word resources to assess where my students are in their sight word knowledge and take it from there. I typically go in grade & frequency order although if a word they are using a lot in their reading or writing happens to be from a different list, I will bring that into the weekly word. It’s ok to be flexible. You can find Dolch words lists and more information HERE.
The number of words to study will depend on your child and the time you wish to spend working on word study. Around 3-5 words/week is a good place to start.
Write each word on an index card and keep it in a Ziploc bag, hole punched and on a key ring, in a pencil box, etc. Keep in mind that your word collection will get quite large as the weeks go on.
While working with your children there are a few quick, easy, and fun activities that you can do to help them memorize their words. I recommend having the child say the entire word as they’re writing/building it (almost as if they’re sounding it out) rather than spelling the word out. Here are some techniques I’ve learned from different resources and used over the years in the classroom and now use with the students I tutor:
What’s Missing – helper (adult, older sibling, tutor) writes the word on a whiteboard/build with magnetic letters and erase/remove a letter. Have child tell you what letter is missing. Do this with different missing letters and even have multiple (or all!) letters missing at once. Child says the word each time you replace the missing letter(s).
Rainbow writing – child writes the whole word in 1 color and repeats by writing the whole word again in a different color right on top of the other color. Use at least 5 colors. I prefer this technique to colorful writing because I feel it keeps the word “together” better. Child says the word as he/she is writing it.
Colorful writing – child writes the word using a different color for each letter. Say the word as they’re writing.
Mix & Fix – using magnetic letters build the word on your magnetic board (it can be right on the tin container if you find one that works for you!). Read the word when it’s correctly displayed on the board. Mix up the letters (you can put them into a little cup and shake them up) then build it again.
Finger writing - child writes the word using his/her finger on the table or whiteboard. This can also be done in sand if you have a little container to keep it in. Child says the word as he/she is writing it out.
Whiteboard writing – you can find whiteboards at the dollar store or get plastic disposable plates. Kids love using them! Child says the word as he/she writes it.I used baby socks in my classroom as erasers. Use a magic eraser or hand sanitizer to clean your boards.
Sentences – as children get older and have more of an ability to write complete sentences, I encourage them to use their new sight words in sentences/silly sentences.
As my students learn new words I play a game with them to practice reading the words in their word collection. We take all of the cards and place each word in front of us one at a time. Whoever slaps the word first (you can use a new fly swatter – “word swatter”) and reads it correctly gets to keep the card. Whoever has the most cards at the end wins. Of course I give them a little wait time, but since these are sight words they should not take more than a couple of seconds to recognize it. I like this game because any words they are not getting become the review words for the next week. Another game younger kids might enjoy is this one I found on starfall.com. It's a simple sight word match!