Nothing has caused greater frustration in our homeschool than when we were teaching my son how to read and spell. I had to dig deep into my teaching repertoire to come up with activities and strategies that would effectively help him learn the sight words he needed to be successful in reading. 75% of the words printed in children’s literature come from the dolch sight word list. Therefore, mastering these words helped make him more successful and less frustrated with his school work.
I have always preferred to teach in context as much as possible. When children see words used in natural ways rather in isolation they are more likely to remember them because they develop an understanding of the word’s significance and meaning.
Teaching Sight Words
The only way to become a better reader is to read. When teaching sight words I start by only introducing 3-5 sight words a week, I make those words a part of their spelling list for the week so that they are writing and practicing them regularly. Then I try to give as much exposure to those words through books, magazines, lessons, activities and games. When we are out and about and we come across one of their words I make sure to point it out. I consider the words mastered when I can hand my children a book with those words and they can read them in context without my help. If at the end of the week we are still struggling with a word or two, I simply add them to the next weeks list.
2. Leveled Readers and Flashcards
Choose a leveled reader or children’s book that is familiar to your child and write 5-7 sight words from the book onto flashcards. Review those words before reading a story and then as you come upon the word, point out the matching flashcard. You can also have your child point to the flashcard as you are reading. If you are reading the story together your child will likely be more focused on the words and have an easier time reading those words in context in future readings.
I picked a book that my son was very familiar with to explain this lesson. If you watch the video you can see that he has most of the book memorized. Although this was an easy activity for him, he had been struggling with a few of these words that week. One of his spelling words was “some” and when I asked him to read it to me he pronounced it “summy” one of the many reasons why it’s important to practice sight words in context.
3. Highlight the Words
Another way I work on teaching sight words in context is to take the same book or leveled reader and type out the story. When they come across one of their sight words they can mark the words in the story with a bingo marker or a highlighter. Keep the flashcards or a list of their sight words on hand so that they have a reference for what they are looking for. You could also read aloud the story in the book and your child could follow along on the paper. When he comes to a sight word he marks it. This activity obviously works best with shorter stories or abbreviated ones.
Using your children’s favorite picture books are ideal. They already enjoy the story and are familiar with it enough to not be distracted by the lesson. These are a few of the ones we used.
Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? Bill Martin (150 sight words)
Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss (700 sight words)
Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown (60 sight words)
Olivia by Ian Falconer (235 sight words)
While I tend to do most of my teaching of sight words in context and through fun repetition, I do like to reinforce our learning through games whenever possible. I have been gathering a huge list of games and activities on my sight word Pinterest board so check those out. Any game that gets our kids up and moving is a huge hit at our house, so this sight word hunt is perfect.
For the full directions and a print out of this game click here: sight word hunt game
For more ideas on teaching sight words visit my Pinterest sight word board.
Do you have a child who struggles with learning sight words? What do you do?