Wondering how to teach sight words? Today’s post is for you!
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In the past few weeks I’ve received a number of emails from readers asking me how to teach sight words.
Recently I found an excellent procedure in the (amazing) book, The Next Step Forward in Guided Reading. Jan Richardson suggests a simple process for teaching sight words.
I’ve adapted it just a bit to use with my Five, who has rapidly added new sight words to his reading toolbox in the last few weeks. This method will work well in one-on-one or small group teaching.
I recommend the following supplies:
- A dry erase board for each student (magnetic would be nice, but ours isn’t)
- A dry erase marker for each student (we like these low odor markers)
- Magnetic lowercase letters – this classroom set is worth every penny, for school or home
- A blank index card
How to teach sight words
STEP 1: Write the word in full view of your learners. I like to use a small dry erase board.
STEP 2: Use an index card to cover up the word. Then reveal it one letter at a time. Have your learner name each letter as it is uncovered.
STEP 3: Write the word with a dry erase marker. Invite your learner to name the missing letter or fill it in with a magnetic letter (we LOVE this set!). Erase and repeat several times with different letters missing.
STEP 4: Give your learner the letters he needs to make the word. Then have him unscramble the letters to form the word. Have him mix up the letters and make the word once or twice more.
STEP 5: After he’s formed the word, have your learner name each letter, pushing them up one at a time.
STEP 6: Have your learner “finger write” the word while looking at it.
STEP 7: Cover the word with an index card. Then have your learner write it with a dry erase marker. He can take a peek at the word if he’s stuck on a letter.
STEP 8: Review on subsequent days as needed. We usually review the word in this way:
- I write it, and my Five reads it.
- My Five makes the word with magnetic letters.
- We review previously learned words on flash cards or with a game, such as Sight Word Memory.
Questions you may have
1. Should I follow this exact procedure every time?
No – just do what works for your learners. I’ve never done every single step exactly in a row. There’s nothing magical about this; it’s just a suggested sequence of steps.
2. How many sight words should we focus on in one sitting?
Normally I wouldn’t teach more than 2-3 words at a time. However, if you’re working one-on-one and your student is learning the words rapidly without frustration, feel free to add a few more.
3. Why doesn’t this method use flash cards?
I think flash cards can be good for review, but they are not a good method for actually teaching the words. Children needs hands-on learning, and this method offers that.
4. What sight words should I teach?
Google “Dolch words” and consider starting with the Preprimer list and working your way up. Don’t teach the list in alphabetical order. Instead, start with the words that are easy to sound out, such as “am.” You might also like this sight word list from This Reading Mama.
If you are supplementing the learning your child is doing in school, ask his or her teacher for a list of sight words to learn.
5. What about worksheets?
I use very few worksheets with my learners because I have not found them to be as effective as manipulatives and games. However, if your learners enjoy them, feel free to join our email list and grab my sight word worksheets from the subscriber library. Just remember that worksheets don’t teach; they assess. Use them for review and reinforcement after you’ve taught the words in a hands-on way.
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