My Love/Hate Relationship With Sight Words...

Let me dust this thing off real quick and see if I remember how to do this. Seriously, what happened here? Anyway, now that the sounds of crickets have subsided, let's talk sight words.

Dolch.
Fry. 

It doesn't matter what list you use, sometimes it feels like they have become the end-all-be-all to reading.

Last year my kinders had to leave knowing 30/40 words from the preprimer dolch list. This year they have to know 50 words. What does that mean to me? That means that even though 3/4 or more of my students don't know the letters in their name at the beginning of the year, we're introducing sight words to them. Well that's not a huge deal except, do they ever have time to truly master those words before they're moving on to new words?

I'll avoid my rant and complete my thought by saying, yes it can be done. However, I feel that we are seriously losing sight of what is developmentally appropriate for our children. They are capable of so much, but sometimes by doing more, it means they're missing out on another piece. I'm sure any teacher reading this already knows that.

I love sight words. They build the confidence of students. They help them become readers. I love to see the excitement on the faces of my kiddos when they tell me they don't know how to read, then they sit next to me and they independently read a book because they were able to identify the sight words. Sight words are important and valuable.

Dun Dun Dun...

However, I have such a fear that due to the emphasis I have to place on sight words, that my students will become sight word readers. What that means to me is that they completely rely on sight words and don't attempt to decode. To me, this is just something I'm always trying to balance and ensure that I am providing equal exposure to in not only guided reading, but also in writing.

Since I have felt that I have spent a lot of TIME on sight words in the past, I'm gonna share with you two tricks that I use that have made a huge difference in my classroom. Since I've incorporated these two things, I spend less time on sight words daily, but I am confident that my students are learning even more than they were previously.

1. Sight Word Poems

I use one of these poems each week. I introduce the poem during writing (on chart paper) and also send it home to read for homework. We read it everyday to build fluency. All words on the pre-primer and primer dolch word lists are introduced in 33 weeks in these poems. The poems specify the focus words and review words at the bottom.

By the end of the week my students are reading these poems independently and identifying words in isolation from the poem. Oh, and they LOVE them!

These poems have given me a consistent way to introduce words to my students. Consistency is incredibly important.

You can find those sight word poems here.


2. Flashcards

Duh! But wait...there's more. These aren't ordinary sight word flash cards. Each flash card contains a small image in the corner. Why?

The brain learns by making connections. It's easy to make kinesthetic connections, auditory connections, or visual connections. With my sight words I chose to use these visual connections. As I teach new words, I let students see the pictures. Each time they look at the word, they are seeing the picture with it and attaching the image to the word. We talk about the image. Students discuss their connections between the image and the word. Sometimes the connections are easy and logical, sometimes they're silly and creative. Either way, they remember them. What the pictures are isn't as important as students' attraction to them.

Soon after, I begin to cover the image in the corner and students are still able to read the words.
When shown the word on an ordinary flashcard, they can still read it.
When seeing the word in text, students can STILL read it.
I honestly feel that this has immensely cut back on the amount of time is takes my kinders to learn new words. I noticed an even bigger difference in my special education students the last couple years. I had students that were struggling to master 10 sight words, and within weeks they had mastered 30 words.

You can find the pre-primer AND primer sets of these cards in my TPT store here.



Overall, these two tools have helped me make my time teaching sight words more efficient. Therefore, I spend less time drilling them, and more time with decoding and other essential reading skills. Yet, they are learning MORE words.


Oh, and HERE WE GO STEELERS!