Oh, those long notorious sight word lists. Do they make you nervous? Me too sometimes, but we teachers know that teaching the sight words is absolutely necessary. Our students need these to become fluent readers. But how can we take this massive undertaking and make it something our students enjoy and maybe even crave? I’m bringing you the sight-word strategies that my students love the most, the ones that they respond to. With these strategies, you can ensure your students are engaged with these long lists and can ultimately become successful with them.
Today’s post comes with the realization for me in my new first grade position that my students are most definitely behind in sight-word identification. I’ve just completed assessments, and that year of crazy COVID teaching is showing up in all things, but especially in sight-word ID.
Part 1: Motivation
So I am definitely pitching a motivational sight word system today. That system can be whatever you want it to be. I just want you to relate how this can be game changing for most of your students. I’m going to be referencing my Rainbow Word system. Keep in mind you can use any system: one that you create or one that you purchase. You just need to make sure you have something in place that motivates your kids.
A successful motivational system has levels like video games our kids play. In my Rainbow Word system, the levels are colors, which connect well with students and are visually appealing to them. Take your sight-word list and break it up into levels. That way students have a short term goal to reach but also have that long term goal of learning all of the words. As they move up in levels, you’ll want to recognize their success. I just brag them up and let them take their assessment home with a big smiley face on it for them to show their family and hang on the fridge because this is a wonderful accomplishment.
The Rainbow Word system makes my life so much easier. Once I type my words in there, it spits out all of the assessments and the tracking sheets that you need for the assessment. I put in all in a binder. Then, I can turn to the page of whatever student I’m assessing, and in just a moment, I can tell exactly which level they’re on, which words they know in that level, and which ones they don’t. This is wonderful when planning for RTI.
Easy for Parents
It will help parents as well. Before I created my Rainbow Word system, I would sincerely just sent home a full list of words or flashcards back in kindergarten. This kind of system is very, very beneficial for parents because they can focus on only the red words, and then move on up to the orange words. And just to relate this back to our topic, student loved strategies for sight-words, once you implement this fully, your kids will beg you to test them over their words. Because once they are successful with that they’re going to want to show you and achieve that goal. They are going to want to receive that reward and recognition for making this great accomplishment.
Part 2: Specific Sight-Word Strategies
This is part two in our two part series about sight-word strategies students love. We know those sight-word lists are long. And we have a lot of work to do this year to catch up from all the things they missed last year. But we got this, and I’m going to help you along the way. Today, I’m giving you the strategies to use during your teaching that can help you engage those little learners to memorize the sight-words and have an awfully good time in the process. So let’s continue our series about strategies that students love when learning sight-words.
You will find the sight-word engagement guide HERE. It will have everything you need to implement the strategies that we talk about today. Sight-words can be very, very passive in learning. We have to work hard to bring engagement and excitement to that teaching.
Now let’s talk about some super fun student loved teaching strategies. Teachers who love teaching, teach students to love learning. The strategies I’m sharing with you today are fun, they can be engaging, but it has a lot to do with your perspective. It has a lot to do with your hype and language when introducing them to your students and helping them to enjoy them more. Use your excitement, use your personality.
I use my rainbow word cards that come from the resource I told you about. I hold them up while my students are on the carpet, and we do all these fun things with the words. It is very low prep. And it’s just so much fun. I have had so many students say, “Miss Mullins, I love doing sight-words.” And when a little learner tells you that they love their sight-word time, their practice in the morning is their favorite part of the day, you know that it is successful. My sight-word review is very, very quick. It doesn’t take more than 10 minutes and I know that we’ve tackled that part of our day.
Strategy #1: Silly Voices
So the first strategy I’m going to talk about is included in the sight-word engagement guide, and it is the silly voices. When reading the words, I take my voice choice board from the engagement guide, and I let one of my students choose the voice we’re going to read our words in. On this table, there are 16 choices, such as our baby voice, monster voice, robot voice, mouse voice, ghost voice, all of those things. So if little Jimmy says, I want to read in our baby voice, I’m going to hold up those words, we’re gonna flash through them, and we’re gonna read them in our baby voice.
Strategy #2: Singing Sight-Words
Another student favorite strategy is singing sight words. When a teacher begins singing out loud, and encourages students to join in, it’s so natural in primary. And I absolutely love that. I love to use songs from Dr Jean to sing sight-words. Now, these are not videos. These are me leading my students and us singing all together. I do use videos and other songs on YouTube. I know students that can watch a video and never move. That is not what we want. So in the sight-word engagement guide, you will find sight word songs for two, three, four, five, and six letter words. And this is a very quick process.
Strategy #3: Sight-Word Signals
Now, this is my favorite strategy. But it’s also definitely loved by students. And that is to use sight-word signals. Sight-word signals are motions that you add to the word to help students understand the word more in context. For the word red our signal is to touch our cheeks and rub them. As they do that students say, “My cheeks are red, red, red. Red.”
So as they incorporate this touch while saying the word, that tactile part of things is helping build their memory of that word they’re looking at. So as you can imagine, students are fully engaged with their bodies, they’re moving, they’re talking, it’s so engaging and fun. And when your students know all the signals,. I like to play a game where they don’t say anything. They only show me the signal. You can find the motions that I use for the pre primer list in the sight-word engagement guide.
Strategy #4: Body Spelling Cards
A newer addition to the sight-word engagement guide are body spelling cards. These are so much fun and can definitely help you in getting your students to practice spelling their sight words. Now, I do not believe that spelling sight words is absolutely necessary. I feel students need to recognize them foremost. But definitely, if I can spell them, that’s wonderful too. I also do believe that spelling the words can help certain students memorize them better.
So I do incorporate spelling the sight words once a week with these cards that you’ll find in the engagement guide. There are different things they do as they spell the word. To ninja spell, they punch for each letter and then kick the word. So for the word red, they would punch r-e-d, and then kick and say the word red. It’s great when students have one motion or thing to do for the letters and then bring it all together with a motion for the word.
More Sight-Word Strategies
I want to point you back to a previous episode of the Primary Teacher Friends podcast that has these sight-word strategies plus many many more. Way back in Episode 13, I talked about 10 ways to practice sight-words virtually that will engage your students. Don’t let that word “virtual” deceive you, because these are strategies you can absolutely use in any classroom setting. You can also read the blog post HERE. I hope you can take some of the ideas you’ve heard today and incorporate them in your own classroom and find more engagement and fun for your students.
Conquer those sight-words!
You are an amazing teacher. You are stellar, you are talented, and you are knowledgeable. In your own free time, you are working here with me to build even more knowledge. That tells me absolutely You are a fantastic teacher. No matter where your students are in their sight-word knowledge, you have the tools within you to help them become successful. Go tackle that sight-word list.
If you have more ideas you’d like to share with me, that may be featured on future podcast episodes and blog posts, send me an email to toni @ teachertoni . com (just remove the spaces). I love sharing ideas. I love learning new things and I know that you teacher have lots of goodies and good ideas to share.
Until we meet again, go make a difference, teacher friend.