How to teach sight words to your child

how to teach sight words with games and techniques
how to teach sight words with games and techniques

Hi friends, In this post, I will talk a little bit about sight words. Another term you may hear frequently thrown in with sight words is high-frequency words. This is a term that, if you’re, a parent or even an early education teacher, you will be all too familiar with, but also maybe a bit confused by. So in this post, I will help you learn what are sight words, how to teach sight words and creative ways of teaching sight words for pre-kindergarten and kindergarten 

Children start to learn phonics in the nursery. Here they put all of those sounds together and then say the whole word. This helps children to be able to read and later on recollect

But what about words that can’t be sounded out phonetically? How do children say that?

What are sight words?

what are sight words

There are many words in English known as high-frequency words, which are not phonetically reproducible, so children can’t sound them out. That means that they just have to learn them by sight, hence the name sight words. Other terms for sight words include star wordscore words, and popcorn words. ( popcorn- because these words “pop up” so frequently in reading and writing.)

 So Sight words are those words that appear most frequently in our writing and reading. Many times these words do not have a concrete image that accompanies them. These are high-frequency words that may not be able to be sound out or picture, and hence, they simply must be memorised and understood. Because of their high regularity, children need to be able to recognise and understand them almost at once upon seeing them. 

Some pointers on Sight Words:

· They Appear often in a text.

· They do not follow the usual spelling rules. They are mostly phonetically irregular, which means, their sound does not consistently match up to their letters.

· They are mostly adverbs, adjectives, prepositions, pronouns, conjunctions and the most common verbs.

· Are not easily represented by pictures, for example, ‘the’ and ‘or’.

Why are sight words important?

By easily recognising these sight words, our young readers are more likely to approach a text with confidence. They will be able to read with more fluency and better comprehension and are will be less likely to get bogged up in their reading by not understanding the words that they are reading

Sight words are important as there are only 100 words or so that make up more than fifty percent of most text that early readers read. These are the words like ‘a’, ‘I’, ‘or’, ‘and’, ‘the’ and so on. They are usually small and easily recognised, and the spelling of these words is not always straightforward about how they sound

The sight words also have words that are phonetically spelled but are still high frequency that it makes a lot of sense for children to know them by sight. 

Words such as “and” can be sounded out phonetically but for the frequency that the word “and “ shows up, it would take children a very long time to read if they were trying to sound it out. Many sight words or high-frequency words have little to no meaning on their own, such as “the” so it can make it a bit tricky to explain to children what that word is. Just open any book and count how many times a certain word such as “the” shows up. You will understand the importance of teaching these words to the child

Sight words appear so frequently and make up such a great amount of all text, that educators advocate children be able to instantly recognise these words so that they can use their time in decoding the more tougher words. If children have trouble with sight words, they will experience frustration and have less desire and ability to spend energy and time to decode the tougher words in the text. So having a list of sight words ready helps them read more easily

The Dolch Sight Words list is the most commonly used set of sight words. Educator Dr Edward William Dolch developed the list in the 1930s-40s by studying the most frequently occurring words in children’s books of that era. The list contains 220 “service words” plus 95 high-frequency nouns.

As per Dolch, there is a specific order to teach sight words. There are a set of 40 basic sight words PreK student needs to learn,kindergarten-52 words, first-grader- 41 words, second grader-46 words, and third grader-41 words

These are the lists for the child to learn at each age 

Most schools will give children a list of sight words that they want them to learn at home. Sometimes this is given out as a list or as flashcards, but most schools will give them out to encourage children to practice at home. Some Schools may also add words that are specific to their reading scheme. So for Oxford reading tree books at school, you will also see sight words such as Biff and chip and kipper, even though those aren’t necessarily high-frequency words. In this case, since children are reading those kinds of books where they show up often, and children must know what those words say.

It can be difficult to know how to help your child learn. These words, when they aren’t phonetically plausible and children, just need to know them by looking at them. This can make it quite tricky and for parents, particularly, if they aren’t trained for this. The best way is to teach this, rather than just putting the word in front of a child and saying read it to teach it through lots of games and activities.

Lets us look at techniques of how to use sight words in the classroom

Technique One: See & Say

This is a simple and straightforward exercise. The parent or teacher holds up a flashcard with the new sight word and has the child repeats the word multiple times while looking at the flashcard.

This technique is the most basic way to introduce a new sight word. It gets the child to use both their visual and auditory senses.

How 

to do it

1) Hold the flashcard at arm’s length from your body, and at arm’s length from the child. 2)Keep the flash at the child’s eye level. Make sure that the child is focused on the written word on the flashcard, not on your face or mouth.

3)Say a sight word and every time, use two fingers, index and middle fingers, to trace the word of the flashcard from left to right, thereby ‘’underlining” the word. This will helps keep the child-focused on the word and get them more familiar to memorize the word and its correct spelling.

Here is an example of what you can say

You: Time to learn a new word. My turn. Ready? ONCE.

      Again: ONCE.

      What word?

 Child: ONCE.

 Adult: Yes! I ONCE was a little girl.

      Now it’s your turn.

 Child: ONCE.

 Adult: Again.

 Child: ONCE.

 Adult: One more time.

 Child: ONCE.

 Adult: Great job!

In this technique, the child will hear and say the word at least seven times and hear it used in a short sentence, all while looking purposely at the written word on the flashcard. In the following techniques, we will add extra stimulation, using the kinesthetic sense and adding spelling to make an even deeper cognitive impression.

Technique Two: Spell Reading

Here we get the child to spell the word and in the process try to remember the word. We aren’t too concerned right now with their ability to spell the word correctly from memory; this is primarily a technique to help them recognize and remember the word.

How to do it

1) Hold the flashcard at arm’s length from your body, and at arm’s length from the child. 2)Keep the flash at the child’s eye level. Make sure that the child is focused on the written word on the flashcard, not on your face or mouth.

3)Say a sight word and every time, use two fingers, index and middle fingers, to trace the word of the flashcard from left to right, thereby ‘’underlining” the word. This will helps keep the child-focused on the word and get them more familiar to memorize the word and its correct spelling

Here is an example of what you can say

You: It’s time to spell-read this word. My turn.

      Ready? FLY. F-L-Y. FLY.

      Again: FLY. F-L-Y. FLY.

      Your turn.

 Child: FLY. F-L-Y. FLY.

 You: Again. Get ready!

 Child: FLY. F-L-Y. FLY.

 You: One more time.

 Child: FLY. F-L-Y. FLY.

 You: Good job!

Technique Three: Arm Tapping

Now we do more repetition on the word, adding spelling to make a deep cognitive impression. The arm-tapping motions stimulate the kinesthetic sense and provide tactile feedback.

Be sure to hold the flashcard at arm’s length from your body, and at arm’s length from the child. The flashcard also needs to be held at the child’s eye level. We want to make sure that the child is simultaneously focused on tapping out the word and looking at the written word on the card.

  1. Say the word while slapping your left shoulder with your right hand. 
  2. Then, say each letter, you use two fingers (index and middle finger of right hand) to tap your left arm, gradually progressing down the arm from shoulder to wrist.
  3. Then say the word again fully while sweeping the two fingers along the left arm, from shoulder to wrist, a variation on the “underlining” motion of previous exercises. 

The child will copy your motions exactly, using their right hand to tap out the word on their left arm.

Here is an example of what you can say

You: Let’s arm-tap the word.

      My turn. Ready? SAID. S-A-I-D. SAID.

      Again: SAID. S-A-I-D. SAID.

      Your turn. Ready?

 Child: SAID. S-A-I-D. SAID.

 You: Again.

 Child: SAID. S-A-I-D. SAID.

 You: One more time.

 Child: SAID. S-A-I-D. SAID.

 You: Good job!

Technique Four: Air Writing

The act of air-writing the letter physically as well as saying and spelling the words creates a cognitive impression and cements the word in the child’s memory. This will also give the child some valuable practice in writing that will be useful later.

Be sure to hold the flashcard at arm’s length from your body, and at arm’s length from the child. The flashcard also needs to be held at the child’s eye level. We want to make sure that the child is simultaneously focused on tapping out the word and looking at the written word on the card.

1) Say the word while “underlining” it, using two fingers of your right hand to trace the arrow that runs from left to right underneath the word on each flashcard. 

2) Then spell the word out loud, using two fingers of your writing hand to “air-write” each letter as you say it. You will air-write the letters underneath the printed word on the flashcard, but do not touch the flashcard. 

3) After air-writing the word, say the whole word one more time, again tracing the arrow to “underline” the word from left to right.

As children in this age range would have started learning to handwrite, make sure you form each letter correctly as you name it, to model the correct technique. And watch the child to make sure they also are forming the letters correctly. 

Here is a sample script for you to follow:

Adult: Let’s air-write this word. I’ll go first.

      Ready? BEEN. B-E-E-N. BEEN.

      Again: BEEN. B-E-E-N. BEEN.

      Now it’s your turn.

 Child: BEEN. B-E-E-N. BEEN.

 Adult: Again.

 Child: BEEN. B-E-E-N. BEEN.

 Adult: One more time.

 Child: BEEN. B-E-E-N. BEEN.

 Adult: Good job!

Technique Five: Table Writing

This exercise will bring together all the activities we learned earlier: recognizing the word on sight, spelling it, and writing it. Here the child will use a flat surface to imitate writing out the sight word, first while looking at the flashcard, and then without looking at the card.

This exercise is similar to previous air writing, but the child will “underline” and write the word away from the flashcard. This is a prelude to writing the word without even looking at the flashcard.

1)Position the child in front of a flat, horizontal surface, such as a desk, table, or even the floor. Hold the sight word flashcard at the child’s eye level.

2) The child will say the word while making the left-to-right “underlining” motion, but they will do this on the table, not on the flashcard. 

3)Then they will use two fingers of their writing hand to “write” the word, looking at the flashcard but “writing” on the table. They will say each letter out loud as they write it. 

4)Then they will say the word again, making the “underlining” motion once more.

Here is a sample script for you to follow:

you: I’ll go first. Ready? ONE. O-N-E. ONE.

      Again: ONE. O-N-E. ONE..

      Now it’s your turn.

 Child: ONE. O-N-E. ONE..

 You: Again.

 Child: ONE. O-N-E. ONE.

 You: One more time.

 Child: WHERE. W-H-E-R-E. WHERE.

 You: That is a great job!

You: let’s now do it without looking at the flashcard. Ready for this?

 Child: WHERE. W-H-E-R-E. WHERE.

 You: Again.

 Child: WHERE. W-H-E-R-E. WHERE.

 You: One more time.

 Child: WHERE. W-H-E-R-E. WHERE.

 Adult: wow you are doing magic!

How to teach sight words in pre-k

Teaching these sight words to smaller ones can be a challenge. So I have a list of activities that will make teaching sight words to the child fun and interesting.

First of all, make flashcards of these sight words. This will make it easier to read them because they’ll be in isolation. If you do get flashcards you can also try printing and cutting on normal paper. Make sure just one word on one little card if you’re making them yourself and use the font, Comic Sans, as it’s a font that really does mirror how we write words. The a is written as “a” in comic sans and very much resembles the storybooks children read. If you can’t print it, you can also do it with your best handwriting,

Snap Game

This is a faster way to teach sight words

1) Make flashcards of words with each words repeating once 

2) laying all the cards upside down and then get the child to turn them over trying to match them.

 This is a great memory game anyway for children, remembering where each word was, and it also helps them to understand what the word looks like, The shape of the word is and what letters are in the word. 

Treasure hunt

You can also try a treasure hunt which is so much fun right at the beginning.

I would recommend starting with just use one word to start 

1)Put lots of cards around the house or the garden or wherever you are, and you are just looking for that word. It may seem a little bit meaningless just to look for one word, but doing this helps children to identify one word, and they know it exactly the next time they come to it. They see the word so many times in their treasure hunt that they start to recognize it. 

2)As children progress, put many words or all of the words in your treasure hunt and hide around the house. 

3)As they bring the word to you ask them to say the word: 

How to teach sight words to struggling readers

If children are enjoying the treasure hunt but they’re finding it difficult still to read the word, then do the below 2 activities

Match the Word Game

Sit at a table with another set of words in front of you. The child needs to come and match the word that they’re holding to one of the words that are on your table. Exactly like the snap card identifyING when one word looks exactly like it’s another way to help children understand and recognize sight.

Try to write Game

At this level, they won’t be writing yet, but there are other things you could do to help them. if they’re struggling with a specific word, write the really really big on a piece of paper and then get the child to trace over it with either a pencil or even some paint. You can get some chalk and get your child to do it. Do this on the pavement outside your house or garden or anywhere else. Get the Writing the same word over, get creative and explore those words.

Flashcards

Once children become more confident in these words, you can play the flashcard game to see how quickly they can read all of the words.

 Set a timer and encourage the child to beat their last time that they did when you played the flashcard game.

Matching with flashcards

Have those flashcards on hand so that you can match them to the word in the story. 

When you’re reading with your child at home, make sure that they’re noticing sight words in their book. Grab your flashcards and try and match them to the flashcard. It can be difficult when children are just using flashcards and then see the word written in, for example, a different font or a different size, or just in a different context. But figuring out sight words will be an important step for the child in reading them

So even though sight words can seem a little bit tricky to teach at first, there are definitely things you can do to make it easier. These set of techniques and activities will make learning sight words fun and interesting for your child and take forward the learning journey

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