Being able to read high frequency words at first glance is a vital reading skill for kids. High frequency words, or sight words make up over 50% of the literary world. Automatic recall allows the reader to build speed and fluency and aids comprehension of the text. So it’s easy to see how important sight words are. But these words can be soooooooo frustrating to learn because many of them don’t follow conventional rules. Take for instance the word ‘was’. Here the ‘a’ is making an ‘o’ sound and the ‘s’ a ‘z’. So how then do we expose kids to high frequency words and when should they be introduced? Here’s our top tips for teaching sight words…
Sight Word Timing Is the Key:
Introducing sight words to kids too soon could be detrimental to their learning. Having a strong foundation in letter-sound relationships and being able to sound out simple, small words such as ‘cat’ and then recognise that the spoken sounds roll together to form the word cat is essential for retaining their learning. Without any letter-sound knowledge kids are merely relying on the shape of the word and possibly some letters to guess what they are reading. Unless you have a fine tuned photographic memory, this method is only setting kids up to fail. Let’s take a look at ‘well’ and ‘will’…not only do the letters look like squiggles on a page to a pre-reader but there is not enough visual discrimination between the two words to give the kids a chance.
Make Learning High Frequency Words Fun- Game It Up
A quick Google of ‘Sight Word Games’ and you will have hundreds of ideas at your disposal. Pinterest is your friend here- as if we need an excuse Sitting rote learning a list of words is a sure way to make kids quickly disengage, become bored and start developing negative feelings towards ‘learning’. So, can the concept. It’s not fun for anyone involved. Instead play games such as Zingos Bingo, POP or Tic Tac Toe and enjoy learning together. When using games be mindful to include some words they know and some that they are learning to keep things fun. If it’s all new it becomes too hard. Don’t forget to add a variety of games to keep kids interested and motivated.
Kids learn through movement-especially boys. Games and activities that permit the common words to be learnt whist tapping into the kinaesthetic intelligence strengthen the connection of the brain’s neurons, essentially helping kids learn the skill. Why not try Word Stamp, Bean Toss, Line Jumping, High Fives or Snowball Fight? Download Printables for Line Jumping and High Fives at the end of this blog.
Engage The Senses
It’s fun to get messy right? Make words erupt with bicarb and vinegar, write in shaving cream, bury sight words in the sand as treasure, write words with cooked spaghetti or playdough snakes. After all, we have been learning about the world through our senses from the moment we were born.
Entwine Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening
When learning to read, the other domains of language such as writing, speaking and listening help accelerate learning when they are employed. With this in mind it is important to expose kids to a range of activities whereby the can use several language skills to learn the sight words.
The degree of difficulty of an activity when learning sight words
1) Selecting a sight word from a group of two or more when someone calls a word
2) Coping the sight word using letter stamps, magazine letters etc
3) Coping and writing the sight word
4) Reading the sight word
5) Writing the sight word without assistance
When selecting activities be mindful that if a word is new to the child it would be unfair to expect him or her to be able to read or write it independently straight away. As they say, “we learn to crawl before we run”.
Slowly Does It
So often kids and educators become so excited about learning to read that they fly through trying to reach the highest reading level. What is concerning here is that not only do kids not have a chance to practise and consolidate their learning but the beautiful purpose of reading is lost. That is the loss of comprehension. Just because kids can read well does not mean that they are understanding what they are reading. So move slowly with learning sight words. 3-5 a week is more than enough to focus on. As kids become more efficient readers they will naturally encounter and quickly retain high frequently used words.