Sight Words Teaching Strategy
Each sight words session is approximately 30 minutes and divided into two components:
- Sight Words Lesson – Use our teaching techniques to introduce new words and to review words from previous lessons (10 minutes).
- Sight Words Games – Use our games to provide reinforcement of the lesson and some review of already mastered sight words to help your child develop speed and fluency (20 minutes).
Use lesson time to introduce 3-5 new words, and use game time to practice the new words.
2. Prerequisites to Learning Sight Words
Before a child starts our sight words curriculum, it is important that he be able to recognize and name all the lower-case letters of the alphabet. When prompted with a letter, the child should be able to name the letter quickly and confidently. Note that, different from learning phonics, the child does not need to know the letters’ sounds.
Before starting sight words, a child needs to be able to recognize and name all the lower-case letters of the alphabet.
If a student’s knowledge of letter names is still shaky, it is important to spend time practicing this skill before jumping into sight words. Having a solid foundation in the ability to instantly recognize and name alphabet letters will make teaching sight words easier and more meaningful for the child.
3. Introduce New Words
In the videos that follow, we introduce new sight words using five techniques that provide different types of cognitive stimulation to help the child remember the new words. The techniques work together to activate different parts of the brain. The lessons get the child up to a baseline level of competence that is then reinforced by the games, which take them up to the level of mastery. All you need is a flash card for each of the sight words you are covering in the lesson.
Sight words are the glue that holds sentences together.
On the first day of the program we use our formal lesson time to introduce 3-5 new words, one at a time, using our five teaching techniques. Hold up the flash card for the first word, and go through all five techniques, in order. Then introduce the second word, and go through all five teaching techniques, and so on. These techniques combine many repetitions of the word (seeing, hearing, speaking, spelling, and writing it) with physical movements that focus the child’s attention and create a deeper intellectual connection to the material being learned.
- See & Say – child sees the word on the flash card and says the word
- Spell Reading – child says the word and spells out the letters, then reads the word again
- Arm Tapping – child says the word and then spells out the letters while tapping them on his arm, then reads the word again
- Air Writing – child writes the letters in the air in front of the flash card
- Table Writing – child writes the letters on a table, first looking at and then not looking at the flash card
This lesson should establish basic familiarity with the new words. The lesson part of the each session should be brisk and last no more than ten minutes. When first beginning sight words, work on only 3-5 unfamiliar words at a time to make it manageable for your child. As your child gets more advanced, you might expand the number of words you work on in each lesson.
4. Review & Reinforce Old Words
After the first day of the program, you will begin each lesson by reviewing words from the previous lesson. Words often need to be covered a few times for the child to fully internalize them. Remember: solid knowledge of a few words is better than weak knowledge of a lot of words!
Go through the See & Say exercise for each of the review words. For any word that the child struggles to recognize, put that flash card aside for more extensive review. If the child has trouble with more than two of the review words, then set aside the new words you were planning to introduce and devote that day’s lesson to review.
You conduct the review of words the child struggles to recognize in the same way you introduce new words, by going through the full sequence of five teaching exercises for each word. If a child continues to be challenged by a particular word, continue reviewing and reinforcing it in future lessons. If the child is reading the words quickly and confidently, add new words to replace the mastered words.
Note: The child should have a good grasp of – but does not need to have completely mastered – a word before it gets replaced in your lesson plan. Use your game time to provide lots of repetition for these words until the child has thoroughly mastered them.
5. Corrections Procedure
Of course children will struggle with some words, making several mistakes in the process of learning their sight words. They might get confused between similar-looking words or struggle to remember phonetically irregular words.
We have developed a corrections procedure that you should use every time your child makes a mistake in a sight words lesson or game. Simple and straightforward, it focuses on reinforcing the correct identification and pronunciation of the word. It can be employed with the student without disrupting the flow of the activity.
Our numerous sight words games are of course the most entertaining part of the sight words curriculum, but they need to wait until after the sight words lesson.
Games reinforce what the lesson teaches.
Note: Be sure the child has a pretty good grasp of a sight word before using it in a game, especially if you are working with a group of children. You do not want one child to be regularly embarrassed in front of his classmates because he is the only one struggling with words the others have already mastered!
7. Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Progress is slow. We have been on the same five words for a week!
A: Particularly in the first days of learning sight words, it is not unusual to have to repeat the same set of words several times. At this early stage, the child is learning how to learn the words and is developing pattern recognition approaches that will accelerate his progress. It is important to give him time to become confident with his current set of words, and avoid overwhelming the child with new words when he hasn’t yet become familiar with the old words.
Q: Do I need to do all five techniques for every word?
A: Initially we start out by using all five techniques with each new word. The techniques use different teaching methods and physical senses to support and reinforce the child’s memorization of the word. After a few weeks of lessons, you will develop a sense for how long it takes your child to learn new words and whether all five exercises are necessary. Start by eliminating the last activity, Table Writing, but be sure to review those words at the next lesson to see if the child actually retained them without that last exercise. If the child learns fine without Table Writing, then you can try leaving out the fourth technique, Air Writing. Children who learn quickly may only need to use two or three of the techniques.
Q: How long will it take to get through a whole word list? I want my child to learn ALL the words!!!
A: That depends on a number of factors, including the amount of time you can devote to the curriculum as well as your child’s ability to focus on the lessons. But do not get obsessed with the idea of racing through the word lists to the finish line. It is much, much better for your child to solidly know just 50 words than to “kind of” know 300 words. We are building a foundation here, and we want that foundation to be made of rock, not sand!
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