You could say my sister and I are a bit of reading fanatics. We love teaching reading just about as much as we love seeing our students learn to read. As reading specialists we understand that students need both phonics instruction and sight words to read. We both use sight word flash cards and Fry Sight Word Books (created by yours truly) to help our students master their sight words. Both our students have become more fluent, confident readers since using these strategies. I want to show you what we do to teach sight word mastery so you can help your students master their sight words too!
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I'm going to start out with the Fry Sight Word Books because they have made the biggest difference in my students' reading and writing. Why Fry, you ask? When I decided to create and impliment these books I did a bit of research into Fry vs Dolch word lists. They're both great lists, and either one will help students read their sight words, but I decided to go with Fry, mostly because it is a more comprehensive list of of words that students will see in reading and writing. I have created 6 books with 100 words per books. I then broke the books down into 4 lists with 25 words per list. I also created two differentiated versions of the books out of the first 200 words and broke them down into much smaller sections for the younger or struggling kiddos. My Kindergarteners have started using these books and they are doing fabulous with them!
Now the fun part! How to use these books to help your students. Each student in my class started out on list 1 of Fry's First 100 Words. Then the students started reading and moving through the books. Some students moved more quickly, and some had to work hard at each and every list they read, but they ALL made significant progress. In in my classroom I time students on each list before they can move on and start working on the next list. My students must read the 25 words and 12 phrases in 1 minute, getting every word correct, before they graduate to the next level. I time the students for many different reasons. First, it helps keep me objective. I'm not able to let students slide by until they have mastered the words. Second it gives students a clear goal to reach. They see where they are at and where they need to get to, and then they work hard to get there. On new lists I will ask if they want to be timed and they always reply "Yes!" As if saying "Duh Mrs. Metcalfe." Finally, I have noticed that the students truly focus and read when it's time to read. No fidgeting, yawning, or trying to distract with stories, instead they are reading, with all their attention on the task at hand. This habit has carried over to other places in our classroom: reading groups, fluency reads and even silent reading. If the timing doesn't work for you and your classroom, don't do it. I have just tried both methods and have seen far better results with timed readings. I do, however, not time my Kindergarteners. When the students are finished with their 1 minute reading with me they either move on to the next list or I mark what words they need to practice most, where they reached in their list, and they go back and practice some more on their own.
There are many different ways my students can practice their sights words on their own: play dough, writing on smatboard/white board/iPad, timing themselves with iPads, building with letter blocks and just reading! These are what I use in my classroom, but you can use whatever works for you. I also like to add or take out activities throughout the year to keep them on their toes. If you have a fun sight word or word work activity that your kiddos love, leave a comment so other teachers and I can try them out!
So far, knock on wood, but my students work so diligently during our "Word Work" time. I rarely need to correct or guide them back to work. Also major bonus for you, very little prep work and upkeep! The students are in control of the words they practice. The students are in control of how they practice their words. They have a clear, reachable goal of mastering their sight words, and they strive to reach it.