There are a number of lists of sight words (most commonly used is Dolch) that comprise up to 50% of the words we read. These words differ from others because they don’t follow standard phonemic rules, making them difficult to decode using methods commonly taught in primary school. In addition, many of these words are not nouns or verbs that can be easily illustrated or even explained. This can make it more difficult for young children to remember these words.
Learning sight words is essential to reading fluency. Because they are used so commonly, they are found in almost every English sentence. Stopping to try to decode these words will drastically affect a child’s understanding of any piece of written work. Without getting a sense of the totality of the written thought, children will struggle to gain the fluency necessary to read for meaning. Essential Skills’ Sight Words teaches the 220 Dolch sight words for grade 1 and more than 100 other high frequency words to students a K to 2 level.
Because sight words can’t be decoded or learned from context, they must be memorized before a child can truly read sentences for understanding. For some of us, we may still have bad dreams about reciting sight words by rote or writing them out a hundred times. Luckily for children today, there are much more enjoyable ways to learn from memory. Here are a few tips that can be used in class or blended with Essential Skills’ online Sight Words program to help students memorize their basic sight words for grade 1.
Don’t expect too much at once. There are over 200 high frequency words that should eventually become automatic, but it is best to start with about ten words. As these become well-learned, new words can be gradually introduced. Don’t forget to continue to include words that have been previously taught, so these remain part of the student’s familiar lexicon. Essential Skills’ Sight Words teaches words gradually and sequentially with words grouped into lists of 10.
Emphasize and point out sight words when doing read aloud. If you work with a projected screen, these words can be highlighted. Essential Skills programs can be connected to an interactive whiteboard for group learning. Students can practice this on their own with a well-developed sight words program. Using online programs like those from Essential Skills will also give you immediate feedback that will let you know if a student needs extra help or intervention.
Make sight words visible in your classroom by posting a “Word of the Day” and make it part of your daily program. As you move around the school with your class, have them point out sight words they may come across in the environment.
Encourage use of sight words explicitly. Include the words in spelling quizzes, or have children write stories or journals that use these words. They can trace over the sight words in a different color to emphasize them. Using online programs from Essential Skills will give kids lots of opportunities to practice using high frequency basic sight words for grade 1.
If your classroom is equipped with computers and keyboards, you have a great opportunity to teach two basic skills simultaneously. While kids complete the engaging exercises in the Essential Skills Sight Words programs, they are also picking up keyboarding skills. Keyboarding is an essential tool that even beginning writers can benefit from. In addition, typing words reinforces muscle memory, which can be especially helpful for children with certain learning disabilities.
To encourage children to write Dolch words effortlessly, play games. Flash cards are available, or you can produce your own. Kids can write on an erasable surface like a white board or use a tablet to respond to the flashcard being shown. As students become more familiar with the game and the words, you can speed it up to make it more of a challenge for them. This is a great activity to practice in leveled groups, with students taking turns being “teacher”. You can also find sight word games like word search and concentration in Essential Skills’ Sight Words to help reinforce basic sight words for grade 1.
Try to find ways to stimulate all learning styles. Many children remember through chanting or singing. Find simple rhythms or songs you can use to incorporate your weekly spelling words. Many high frequency words can’t be drawn, but visual learners can be stimulated by using bright colors or magnetic letters. Colored clay can be a creative way to form tactile letters that spell words from your list. Essential Skills’ Sight Words programs include a wide variety of engaging auditory, visual, and tactile typing activities to support different learning styles.
Whatever works best with your class, remember the importance of teaching sight words. If you stress them in all your lessons, and teach some new ones each week, most of your students will become automatic at recognizing these high frequency words. Try giving your students a chance to practice their new knowledge every day by using the Sight Words programs from Essential Skills to reinforce sight words for grades 1 through 4.