If you’re tuning in as this releases, it’s about the time of year when we have to get real about sight word identification problems we’re having among our students. Sight word identification is so, so important, and we are in the final stretch of the school year. We have to address this now or never. So today, we’re talking getting smart with sight word intervention.
We can still get them there if we are strategic from this point on and make good decisions that make sight words stick. I know you’re wondering how you’re going to get them to that magic number of sight words. So here’s some advice about getting smart with sight word intervention.
Give Yourself Some Grace
First, don’t feel bad if you have some students struggling with this. We have so many obstacles in front of us it’s very easy to let things through the cracks. I have a little house and a little office where I try to go to focus alone. (Quiet time is hard to come by when there are four kids, a dog, and a husband in the house too!)
Unfortunately, my office is also the catch all room. The junk room. I’ll find something in the house that needs a new place and I just set it down in there. And it keeps happening. Sometimes for days. Or weeks. Or months…
Now imagine piling all of that stuff in the place where you are supposed to be productive.
Most of the time I’m really good at ignoring it, but then all of a sudden I look around and I’m completely overwhelmed with all of the things. I reach my point of not being able to ignore it anymore. It’s not that I don’t care about my office and want it to be tidy, but sometimes other things are more important and take my attention.
I know that this same scenario happens to you as a teacher when it comes to seeing the deficiencies of your students. We go through the school year teaching mostly whole group lessons, and it’s sometimes too easy for us to ignore that some of our students are terribly behind.
Time for Sight Word Intervention!
So at this point in the school year, that’s where my mentality lies when it comes to my struggling readers, and more specifically, those students who are struggling with sight word identification. This can be a big, overwhelming problem when you really sneak in there and see what your students are not able to do at this point of the school year.
If you’re feeling the same way I am at this point, I’m here to offer a little hope and advice. I’ve been here before. It’s very familiar ground for me.
The first, most important thing we can do, is to finally reach this point of making a change before it’s too late. Pretend that this situation is just like my tiny office, and the junk piled up around you is about to fall and crush your soul.
Okay, let’s not go that far. But you get the point. 😂
Now, it is time to make a change. You can do it. We still have time!
I want to encourage you to get smart with intervention at this point and make decisions that will truly help your students improve.
Let me start with this little bit of information: sight word identification is the lowest level of learning. If you think back to Bloom’s Taxonomy, in the very bottom of the pyramid is the word “remember.” When dealing with sight words, realize that every student can do it.
Every student in your classroom can remember these words. We just have to make the decision that we’ll get them there.
So, here are my three keys to effective and successful sight word intervention. These concepts are irreplaceable and cannot be ignored if your students need intense instruction.
Key #1 – Plan and Execute Assessment Driven Small Groups for Sight Word Identification
This area of sight word ID is so important that we cannot rely on our whole group instruction anymore at this point to help our students be successful. I know what you’re thinking. It’s hard to find time in the day and to keep all the other students busy, but this is absolutely necessary.
When we’re teaching whole group and we’re all practicing together, it’s really hard to notice trends and to see the deficiencies of your students. We’re basically oblivious to the problem until we get down to small groups and see what each child is actually able to do. The great thing is, once you start these small groups, or even one-to-one, you’ll see these trends, and you’ll be able to fix them very quickly.
Get Small Group Sight Word Intervention on the Schedule
So look at your daily schedule and carve out some time to have small group sight word practice. Choose some less important tasks to put to the side. This is crunch time. You have to decide what is most important and focus on that from here on out.
If you’re really sure you cannot find time, it may be time to ask for some help. Find a parent volunteer or someone in the building that has a little time that they would donate to help your students become better at reading their sight words.
We have to get that small group in there somewhere. Schedule it, and do it every day.
On top of that, make sure these groups are assessment driven. Give your sight word tests. See which words your students need help with, and group them by their similarities.
For many years, I have used a RAINBOW SIGHT WORD SYSTEM. I take the big list of sight words students must know in the school year, and it divides them down into colors. I also give my assessments based on this color.
For example, if I have students that have not mastered their red word cards, this is exactly what I would focus on for that group. It really helps the students to attain a small goal that is geared toward helping them to learn all the words on the list. It makes it less overwhelming for them and for me. Once your students master a small set of words, move up to the next level. Be sure to celebrate each success with them.
Key #2 – Consistency and Repetition in Sight Word Intervention
I talk about this all the time because it is really a cornerstone in my teaching and my success as a teacher. Remember that consistency means that you do the same thing every day. Plan your groups in a way that allows for you not to miss them. Put them high on your priority list.
Repetition means that you do the same thing over and over and over within that group. When planning your activities, really try your hardest to find quick bang for your buck things to do that give them that exposure.
Simpler is Better
Forget the cutesy, Pinterest perfect activities if you’re planning your groups. We don’t have time for cute. We have to get the job done. Simpler is better here, because you have less instructions to give and more actual learning.
One game I love to play is actually included in the rainbow words packet. It’s called ZAP. You can actually make this game with some index cards, so don’t feel pressured to buy anything. You take those sight words and put them on cards. Within that deck of cards, you have some cards that say in all capital letters ZAP.
You go around the circle pulling cards and having students read the words from the cards. If they get the word correct, they get to keep their card. But if you come upon a ZAP card, that steals away all of the cards they have collected. All of the other students shout out ZAP!
It’s so simple and so effective, because I have several copies of whatever group of words we’re working on in that deck. So if we’re on red words, all the words in that deck of cards are red.
When it comes to that repetition, it’s also very smart to give students several ways to practice one single word. Another resource that I’ve created that I always use is called INTENSIVE SIGHT WORD PRACTICE. This is a worksheet that has seven different ways to practice one word. So students:
- Spell and say
- Rainbow color
- Find and circle
- Write, read, and color
- Cut and paste
That repetition really brings home that word for the students. They’ve seen it so many times it really starts to forge its way into their memory. But whatever activities you choose to use, just remember to ask yourself, “Am I being consistent with my groups? Within my groups, am I repeating things enough to give students exposure to the words they need?”
Don’t be cute. Be smart and strategic, and that will get the job done.
Key #3 – Having Multisensory Activities That Meet All Learning Styles
You probably know that every group of kids is made up of different learning styles: visual, kinesthetic, auditory, or any mixture of those three. Personally, I don’t have time to determine who is exactly what kind of learning style, so I make sure to incorporate all three into most of my teaching.
The thing about sight word identification is that this is a highly visual skill. Most kids can memorize these words by sight. That is why, more than likely, most of your students are doing okay with sight word ID, and you are focusing on the small group of students who are having difficulties. We have to make adjustments for these other learning styles. So, how do we make this visual skill of seeing and recognizing sight words meet those kinesthetic and auditory learners?
For Kinesthetic Learners
It’s actually very simple. First of all, we just have to incorporate movement. Now, I know that you can do playdough mats and blocks and things like that. I’m not discouraging those. Be sure to think about to think about your time, though.
A very quick way to reach kinesthetic learners with your sight word intervention is to add some movement. I already talked about sight word engagement HERE. Personally, I like to use sight word signals. It’s just where you add a motion and a quick chant with a word to bring it in context and help your kinesthetic learners remember the word.
The word “find” is one of my favorites. We say, “Find your belly button. Find, find, find.” And while we’re saying that, the students are sticking their finger where their belly button is on their shirt. They’re touching and remembering. You can find my list of signals in my sight word engagement guide down below.
If you already have the engagement guide, I’ve added an update to it to help you get some more fun and movement in there with your word practice. I have included some body spelling task cards in there. You can print these out, cut them up, put them in a pile or on a ring, and this is going to give you some fun, go-to ways to practice the spelling of your sight words.
So, for example, you’ll find one with some weight lifting. Students pretend to lift the weights while they say the letters, and then they flex their muscles to say the word. So for the word “find,” they’re lifting “F-I-N-D,” they pull down their arms, flex and show those muscles, and say, “Find.” I also use this strategy for spelling words to bring some kinesthetic learning.
For Auditory Learners
We also have to meet the needs of those auditory learners. The easiest, and most engaging way, to do this is to sing our sight words. In that free engagement guide, you’ll also find tunes to songs that will help you very easily and quickly sing sight words. I love singing sight words. It really puts that word deep in their memory.
Finally, another auditory way to practice sight words is to use silly voices. This is another tool in the engagement guide. It’s a voice choice board that has all of these characters that students can use to spell their words out loud. I use this with my second graders every single day, and I will tell you that their favorite voice is the yell voice. Yes, they get to yell out their spelling words, and it is torture for me because it’s so loud. But you can bet that every student is engaged. It really is effective. Some other voices you’ll find are the grouchy voice, baby voice, ghost, pirate, all those different characters.
So those are some ways to engage all the learning styles in your sight word instruction. Really thinking about our learners this way when choosing activities is such a smart move, especially considering that they are behind at this point with all of the other ways we’ve already practiced.
You Can Do It!
Teacher friend, I believe in you. You understand why sight words are so important. You’re invested in your students. And now, you have some keys to help you get this intense sight word intervention that your students need.
You can do it!
If you’d like to be part of a community on our teaching journey, head over to the Facebook group and say hi! We’d love to have you join us.
Until next time, keep making a difference, teacher friend!