HOW AND WHY I TEACH SIGHT WORDS

Why teaching high frequency words to beginning readers and writers is so important and how to best teach them sight words.

We've all met the beginning reader struggling with their fluency. 

They stop at nearly every word trying to put their early understanding of sounds to good use to decode the word. Decoding doesn't mean they isn't just sounding out words, it requires children to take apart the sounds (segmenting) in words then blend them back together. 

t-h-e... w-h-a-t... w-a-s...

A child has to have a understanding of both single sounds and digraphs to have any hope of working out those words. Many words are just not spelled the way they sound making reading hard work at the beginning reducing a child's confidence and making comprehending what they are reading near impossible.

What are sight words and why are they important to reading and writing in the Early Years?

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Teaching Sight Words - practical ways to teach high frequency words plus printable sight word mats to use | you clever monkey

WHAT ARE SIGHT WORDS?

Sight or high frequency words are those we see and use most often when reading or writing. They account for as much as 75% of all words used in the English language.

They are called sight words because ideally, children should be able to read them by 'sight' and not have to utilise any of their reading strategies like decoding or chunking to be able to read the word correctly.

Many of sight words do not follow the basic phonics principles we teach making them difficult to decode by young children.

Being able to automatically recognise sight words can help young children become faster and more fluent readers.


Sight Word Flash Cards | you clever monkey


HOW TO TEACH SIGHT WORDS

There's no real magic to teaching sight words.

Constant and repeated exposure to these words until they 'stick' is the best way to teach them. 

Many teachers will create a word wall in their classroom with these high frequency words. Somewhere students can see them often works best. I utilise the area under my whiteboard at the front of class, adding new words as we introduce them. Children are encouraged to take them from the word wall to use them in their writing as they need. Word walls can include both decodable and difficult to decode words.

At my school, mini word lists are send home to practice reading nightly along with their school readers.

Then it's just practice, practice, practice!

The most effective activities tend to utilise a multisensory approach - ones that include an element of movement, sight or sound.

Literacy centres provide the perfect opportunity to practice sight words in different ways.

Reading then making the word from playdough, WixStix or pipecleaners is a fun way to engage school starters.

Teaching Sight Words - practical ways to teach high frequency words plus printable sight word mats to use | you clever monkey

With slightly older children, we might switch to magnetic letters or stamps. 

Or add some LEGO blocks! My children can't resist LEGO so these LEGO Sight Word mats have proved to be a popular addition to our word work.

Teaching Sight Words - practical ways to teach high frequency words plus printable sight word mats to use | you clever monkey

I created two different versions of these and grouped them into different sets to make differentiating between groups easier. 

The simpler version of these LEGO sight word mats allows the LEGO bricks to be laid directly over the word and then the children can practice writing the targeted word themselves. 

The second version are smaller requiring the children to build the word independently of a template which helps develop their spatial awareness and visual discrimination skills while practicing their sight words.

The second version does double duty as it also included the targeted word in a simple sentence to help provide the beginning reader with some context.

Teaching Sight Words - practical ways to teach high frequency words plus printable sight word mats to use | you clever monkey

Any games you can create with sight words is going to be a hit! 

My class love this game of Sight Word Splat.

Teaching Sight Words - practical ways to teach high frequency words plus printable sight word mats to use | you clever monkey

Or play pick up sticks, word BINGO, build them with alphabet beads. Write them with chalk outside then call them out and spray them with water. 

Learning to recognise some words by sight does not and should not take the place of a intentionally taught synthetic phonics program but we do know that learning to read successfully involves both decoding and learning high frequency words at sight.


ALL OUR SIGHT WORD RESOURCES



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