Thursday, August 18, 2011

Teaching Sight Words

Like most elementary teachers I am familiar with sight words. I am also familiar with the frustration of teaching them to a student who struggles with memorization. It can be hard to make memorization fun. Today, I want to share some ideas to help. Please get a drink and get comfy. This is a long post.
Sight words are the most commonly read words. You may hear that they are not phonetically decodable, but most are. Some of them truely are irregular words, but most are not. However, since these words are so common students encounter them long before they have learned all of the phonics involved. Reading these words with ease allows students to focus their energy and effort on less frequently enountered words, read fluently, and comprehend more readily.

The two main lists of sight words are the Dolch List and the Fry List. My school uses the Dolch List. If a child has mastered all of the Dolch words, I go to the Fry list next. The Dolch list needs to be memorized by third grade, but if a student is able to progress faster they should. This post will focus on the Dolch list.
Before you can begin to teach the Dolch Words, you will need to have a list of them and resources to assess them with. Mrs. Perkins has a great set of resource which includes flashcards and word lists for assessment. The Dolch Kit is another website that contains resources on the Dolch Words.

I like to assess my students on the Dolch Words early on during the year and frequently after that. One method I have used to keep up with my students' knoweldge of Dolch Words is to create an Excel spreadsheet. I list the students at the bottom on the x-axis and the words on the y-axis. I make one spread sheet for each level of Dolch Words. As a student masters the word I type the date where their name and the word intersect and highlight the cell. Then, I look at my students and create an indivudual list of 5-10 words to work on. I can also tell at a glance what words should be included in my whole group instructional time.
Whole group instruction on Dolch Words can include word wall activities, flash cards, word of the day activities, spelling words, Bingo, etc. Students can work on individual words during word work time. These words can be worked on with peer tutors, book buddies, parents, or independently. Activities for individual word lists could include sensory writing activites (shaving cream, sand, hair gel), computer games at Spelling City, flash cards, spelling hopscotch, etc.

The most important thing to remember is that students need direct instruction and repetion to learn these words. Find a way that works for your students and include them in your day. I would LOVE to hear how you make sight word instruction fun. Please leave a comment with your ideas.

1 comment:

  1. Very cute blog-LOVE the lil monsters! I'm with you-always looking for new ways to practice those sight words. Thanks for your comment on my "Secret Code Word Wheel"! I just love that little thing for quick sight word practice!
    Christie :)
    First Grade Fever