TRT Podcast#55: A simple process for teaching sight words
We’ve learned that teaching students to memorize sight words as wholes isn’t the way to go. But what should we do instead? This episode will walk you through a simple process for teaching sight words.
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Full episode transcript
Hello, it's Anna Geiger from The Measured Mom! Today we're going to conclude our three-part series about sight words. In the first week, we talked about misconceptions surrounding sight words. Last week, we talked about the most important thing to remember when teaching sight words. Today we're going to look at a simple process for introducing sight words.
Now, just to be clear, when I use the term "sight word," I'm referring to those high frequency words we want our students to recognize automatically. There's a lot of different definitions around sight words. I believe we talked about that in the first week. Today I'm using it in a more general way, just the idea that these are words we want students to recognize instantly, without needing to sound out or guess.
With that said, let's take a look at a simple process for teaching sight words.
Number one, count the sounds in the word. This is really important because we've learned that we go from speech to print when learning to read, not the other way around. We want our students to examine the sounds in the word.
I might say, "Today we're going to learn to read and spell the word 'some.' Say the word 'some.' Let's count the sounds in the word. In front of you, you have some boxes. I want you to put a counter in each box every time we say a sound. Are you ready? Let's say the sounds of the word 'some': /s/, /ŭ/, /m/. How many sounds? Three. That's right."
That's all you're doing. You're counting the sounds. It can be helpful to have boxes, one for each sound that are going to be in the word, or you can just have them use counters and push them forward for each sound.
The next thing I would say is, "Let's work on spelling each of those sounds. What's the first sound in the word 'some?' /s/. What letter would you expect to see for the sound /s/? That's right, an S. Go ahead and write an S in the first box. All right. Let's point to the second box, which is for the second sound. What's the second sound in the word some? /ŭ/. What letter represents the sound /ŭ/? Yes, it's usually a U, but this word is different. In this word, we're going to put an O. So put an 'o' in the middle box. All right, now it's time for the last sound. What's the last sound in some? /m/. What letter represents /m/? That's right, M. Put an M in the last box, and then we have to squeeze a sneaky letter in there. Squeeze in the E. We're not sure why we have to use an E in the word some, but there it is. Let's look at the word and point to each of the letters. S-O-M-E spells 'some.'"
That would be the first couple of steps. You're going to count the sounds, and you're going to explicitly teach the spelling of each sound.
The next thing I recommend is practicing reading the word in different contexts. First, I would include the word in a list of other words that have a similar pattern. For the word "some," we could read "some, come."
Then I recommend reading the word in some sentences. Those sentences should be decodable based on about where the child would be expected to be in reading development when they are learning this sight word. The word "some" is probably one of the earlier words that you would teach so you'd keep your sentences pretty simple. "I have some cats. I have some cups. I have some dogs," or something like that. You would want them to maybe highlight or underline that sight word and then read the sentences.
Finally, you should have them practice building, tracing, and writing the word. You could give them magnetic letters. You could give them pieces of paper where each piece of paper has one letter of the word. Have them practice building the word a few times. Have them trace it so they can practice the proper proportions for the letters and practice writing the word.
Now there's one more thing that would be really helpful in addition to all of these steps. That would be to have students have a book - a decodable book - featuring the sight word that they can use to practice.
It's hard to find this kind of book. I actually created a whole set of sight word books years ago. They were on my website for years, but I took them down. I took them down a year or two ago because they were not aligned with the science of reading. The sight word books that I created were based on my understanding of balanced literacy, which says that students should use pictures and context clues as they're solving words, at least in those beginning reading books. That's what the books relied on. I thought that seeing the sight word over and over, and then using the pictures and context and everything to read the rest of the book, would help those sight words stick.
But really, our kids are much better off if those "sight word books" they're using are decodable. That way they're practicing their decoding skills, and then they're practicing reading those high frequency words as well.
If you're thinking to yourself, "Okay, those steps sound good. And yeah, those decodable books, that sounds nice. But I don't really have time to create word lists and sentences, and I certainly don't have time to create my own decodable text for all of the sight words that I want to teach. What now?"
The good news is that I have done that for you. My team and I have worked to create a set of 240 sight word lessons. Each lesson comes with a decodable book featuring that high frequency word. These are available in our shop. The regular price is $49, which is a steal because each lesson in each book only costs about 10 cents each.
However, if you're listening to this in real time, and that is November 22nd, 2021 or a few days after, we're offering a special Cyber Monday/Black Friday sale where you can get the whole set of 240 lessons in books for $27. Or you could join The Measured Mom Plus, our membership, which has over 2000 well-organized printables for teaching in a structured way, and we keep adding to it all the time. If you join for the year, you can get this bundle of sight word lessons and books for free through November 29th, through Cyber Monday.
So you've got three options, I guess. You can create the lessons and books on your own, which is totally fine. Or if you'd like someone to do it for you, you can head to my website, and you can go to themeasuredmom.com/sightwordlessons to get the whole bundle for an incredible price, especially if you're getting this in 2021, before Cyber Monday.
Option number three is to join the membership, The Measured Mom Plus, and there, if you do that by November 29th, you will receive all of these for free included with your yearly membership. To learn more about the membership, you can go to themeasuredmom.com/join.
You'll find links to this product in my shop, as well as a link to join the membership, and also a link to some free lessons and books that I've offered on my website, so that you can check to see if it's something that you'd like to invest in. All of this will be on the show notes page, themeasuredmom.com/episode55.
Next week, I'm planning to start an exciting new 10-part series, and I will see you then. Thanks for listening.
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- Our sight word blog series begins here.
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Sight Word Lessons with Decodable Books (Complete Set!)
With explicit lessons and decodable books, this bundle has everything you need to introduce sight words with confidence!