Teacher tips

 

What are Sight Words?

What’s the most common word in the English language?  It’s the. Imagine if every time you saw this word, you had to stop and figure out what it was. It would make reading even the simplest text very slow and painful. Being able to read the at first sight makes things a lot easier: no sounding out, no trying to remember. You recognize it just like your own name. Sight words are words like the. These words occur so frequently that readers, including very young readers, need to know them instantly.  

So, why memorize these words rather than sounding them out? The sad truth is that many of the most common words in English do not follow the rules for sounding out words. Why, for instance, doesn’t the word was rhyme with has? Why doesn’t have rhyme with gave? Or the rhyme with she? Yes, learning to read English is tricky! This is why we set aside the most common words, designate them as sight words, and get children to memorize them…on sight.  

Decades ago, an educator named Edward Dolch developed a list, used widely by teachers, of the 220 most common words in English. The words are broken down by levels: pre-primer, primer, first grade, second grade, third grade. This set of words does not include nouns. Therefore, Edward Dolch created a second list composed of 95 nouns. Some of the 315 words that comprise the two lists are very easy for kids to learn: a, I, it. Others offer more of a challenge. For instance, the pre-primer list includes you, said, and where.

 

Time to Play

Parents can perform a crucial role in helping children learn sight words, not by badgering or forcing them to run through endless flashcards, but by doing what children truly enjoy: playing games.

Here is a list of the 45 sight words we include in our Beginning Reader and Growing Reader pathways:

And, a, the, on, is, to, I, was, you, your, yes, no, do, they, with, that, are, said, girl, boy, were, this, look, like, want, has, of, what, see, go, play, here, very, good, his, her, there, where, have, walk, talk, know, blue, green, little

Here is a link to the two Dolch words lists

 

Using either list, pick six words you know your child needs to learn and use them in the following games. Slowly add new words and drop the old ones. Don’t expect to conquer the whole Dolch list or even our more limited list in a week or a month or even in six months. However, if you’re consistent and play the sight word games regularly, your child can become a sight word wonder!

 

Sight Word Twister:  This is a version of the popular game, Twister. Write your six sight words on index cards — one word on each card. Then clear a space on a wooden or linoleum floor and tape each word so that they are all just a little bit apart from each other. Now the fun begins. Tell your child to find one of the words — have, for instance — and place an elbow on the word. Then they must put their knee on a second word and their nose on a third. You can go on to a fourth, fifth, or sixth word, or you can stop at three. The effort to twist and turn doesn’t need to be exclusively your child’s. In my experience, children want ME to play Sight Word Twist too, and I’m happy to comply. Children will play many rounds of this game, but it’s best to limit your play to two or threerounds per player. Better to leave them eager for more than risk their getting bored. If they are eager for more, they will happily play again in a day or two.  

Pick the Word: Write your six words on index cards — one word per card. On a sheet of paper, list the six words twice — one list for you, one for your child. Next, place the index cards with the words facing down. You can take the first turn. After picking a word from your list, flip four of the cards so the words are showing. If you uncover the word you’re seeking, you can cross that word off your list. At the end of your turn, flip the cards back over, mix them up, and give your child a turn at flipping four of the cards. If on your first turn you did not find the word you wanted, you have to hunt for the same word on your next turn. If you found the word you wanted, pick a second word from the list. The first player to cross off four words wins. To make the game more challenging, you can turn over three cards per turn instead of four, or you can aim to find all six words instead of just four of the words.

Word Match Up: On a sheet of paper, write your six sight words three times. Your child’s job is to draw a line that connects each word to the two identical words on the sheet. After drawing a line that connects the first three words, it’s time to connect the next three matching words. Sounds easy, but here’s the hitch: your child cannot cross any line already on the page. The page gets pretty crowded with lines, so this is not an easy accomplishment. Try it yourself. The more you stumble and struggle, the more your child will enjoy the game.   

Word Toss: Write each sight word on its own Post-it®  and then stick the words on the floor. You can also stick them to a wall or a door. Get a soft toy, like a small stuffed animal, and stand a few feet away from the words. Choose a word and say it aloud. Your child must toss the toy so that it hits the right word. Your turn next. Your child picks a word for you to hit. The game is more fun if you miss, so don’t worry about having poor aim. You can play to see who reaches a set number of points or who has the most points after five or six rounds.

Word Toss Sight Word Game Video

 

Games like these are easy to play, require very little equipment, and are highly effective. The more you play these or similar games, the faster your child will learn lots of sight words, which will make them stronger, more confident readers.

Written by: Peggy Kaye, Chief Curriculum Officer

 

Let us know which sight word game is your favorite in the comments below!

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Exploring an area of interest helps children grow their vocabulary and background knowledge, gives them an outlet for creative self-expression, and helps them make sense of how the world works can even help them discover new interests. Importantly, it also creates a positive attitude towards learning that can have a lasting impact.

Here are ways you can motivate your child to learn through their passions more and ensure they are  actively engaged in what they’re learning:

 

Engage all of the senses! Help make their interests visual through books, videos, or even trips or experiences like visiting a local fire station. Incorporate the sounds of a fire engine or make it tactile with a themed sensory bin. Experiencing it in these ways will help build a child’s understanding of the topic.

 

 

• Help kids make a connection to something new. Whether it’s really literal like watching the garbage truck come to your house and comparing/ contrasting with your child’s toy garbage truck, to something more abstract like relating how a character from your child’s favorite movie feels in a scene to a time your child is feeling something similar, building on what a child already knows is a great way to learn something new.

• Use it to incorporate something totally unrelated. One time, I tried to do letter play with my son and his magnetic letters, even giving each letter a personality and special voice. He wanted nothing to do with it. But he was in a phase of loving playing with trains on his train track, so I drew a track on butcher paper in the letters of his name. We had the best time decorating the track and creating a new way to play with his trains, and I was able to work the letters into our play (“I’m over here driving on the C, meet me over at the L”) in a way that wasn’t pushing him to do something he didn’t want to do.

• Spark some fun into daily routines or things a child might not want to do. A big mom win for me was when I was able to avoid a toddler meltdown leaving the park by suggesting we pretend to be race cars on the way home. You better believe I added sound effects and some race car vocabulary to the mix, too.

• Use it as an opportunity to connect with your child. This one may seem obvious, but there are so many educational and developmental benefits to simply having a conversation with your child that I couldn’t leave it off the list. Let your child drive the conversation about what interests them, ask questions, and add information to deepen their understanding of the concept. They will feel proud getting to share their interests with you and having some bonding time over something that matters to them. No materials or set-up required!

As parents, what can we do to support our children’s interests and incorporate their passions in creative ways?

Let us know on IG @learnwithhomer using the #KidPoweredLearning

 

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Before coming to HOMER to work on the Learning Team, I spent 8 years as a preschool teacher in New York City. Let’s face it, the teacher’s desk can sometimes become a catchall place for everything under the sun. One of my main struggles was keeping my desk clean and organized. As a teacher you want to be a role model for your students, so that they keep their desks (or cubbies) clean and organized. In prep for celebrating “Clean off your desk day” here at HOMER HQ– I went to a few experts to get their perspectives. The family business is education, so I asked my sister and mother who are both teachers how they manage to keep their desks clean.

Here were the best suggestions from the three of us:

  1. Set aside time each week (either on Friday afternoon or Monday morning) to clean off your desk. As much as you try to keep things organized during the week, there will inevitably be those stray papers and other items that accumulate during the week. Start the week off right by spending the time to tidy it up! (I carried this over into my current job and try to tidy up my desk and close as many tabs and documents on my computer as possible each Friday afternoon!)
  2. Keep a small drawer organizer on your desk for things like paper clips, binder clips, rubber bands, staples, etc. so they don’t just pile up everywhere. As an extra bonus, you will know where to find them quickly when a student asks for one! 
  3. Color coordinate your files. Make sure all of your files or folders are color coordinated based on subject, for both your students and yourself! This makes things much easier to find quickly and helps your students keep their work organized as well. If space is limited, hang something around your desk to organize your folders, with one for each subject.
  4. Use binder clips so that your chords aren’t all over your desk and you can even label them! This is a game changer! 
  5. Use a file organizer to keep track of holidays. As a preschool teacher, I was always decorating the classroom based on the season or holiday we were celebrating. I kept a file folder organizer on my desk that was organized by month, with each holiday having its own file folder. With folders organized by month, I could easily access the appropriate holiday without digging through stacks of papers! 
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