Previously, when I taught kindergarten, 34 sight words were standard for students to master before they went into first grade. So when the standard went from 34 to 86, I was stressed about how to teach these words to kids who continue to struggle with retention and application. Sight words are important to being successful at reading. The goal put a lot of pressure of me to find new ways to help my students learn these words. Here are some strategies I tried successfully. I put 5 to 10 sight words on the class Word Wall each week. Students learned how to use them in sentences, practiced writing with them and are encouraged to use the Word Wall Words during all writing activities. The most effective way I found to get them to remember sight words is to make the activities fun. During centers, students use paint dabbers to create sight words, play sight word games and sing sight word songs found on You Tube. The Sight Word Necklace has been a huge hit with motivating students to learn the words in class and at home. Start the students out with a few words on their necklace. By the next week see what they know. If they know it, they keep it. If not, the word goes off the necklace and home for practice with the parents. For every 20 they master, they get a special card that rewards them with a treasure box treat in our room (you can use anything… a certificate, a hug). When they reach all the words they get to eat lunch with the teacher and a friend. Another game they like is the Fly Swatter Game. Two groups of students a picked, the teacher calls out a word and whoever swats the word on the word wall first get a point for the team.
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Are you still displaying a dull word wall that just stays glued to the wall all year, adding words, and hoping the kids look at it during their literacy time? Time to step up your game. Students need to touch, feel and interact with a Word Wall. This has been one of the best tools to teach reading and writing in my room since I changed my old way of using a Word Wall. Just print, laminate and hang letter squares in an area that is easy to grab it from the wall, take it to their learning area, and then they can put it back on the wall. Oh no, the words erased? That’s okay! If they do, ask a helper to put the words back on the board. It may look a little messy, but it is in use, exciting, and empowering them to use those sight words. I keep a small print out of the words next to the word wall for them to use, if they erase, so they can easily rewrite it correctly. They could even ask a friend. You can always fix it at the end of the week, if you worry about neatness. Here are some tips for using an interactive Word Wall:
I like to play games with the squares. Sometimes I mix the letters up, and see if the students catch the mix up. Then, I offer them a little award for being a good “Letter Detective.”
Another game I play is called, Swat the Sight Word. This is where I group students in two lines, give fly swatters and call out a word on the Word Wall. They both try to “Swat” the word and whoever gets there first wins a point for the team.
I highlight the vowels on the Word Wall, so students can easily identify them.
After laminating, make sure you leave a small portion around the paper when cutting to ensure moisture never gets into our paper.
Use Cardstock or glue to poster board to make it last longer.
We make up songs to go with each letter sound. “A, /a/ /a/ /a/ Apple, B….
“Box Up” the words, by drawing lines to show (low, high and medium) letters. We say the word. Then spell it with body movement. (squat down for low letters (like g), hands by your sides for medium letters (like e), and hands up high for tall letters (like t).
Find word families.
Don’t stick just to sight words. Students love to learn ROBUST VOCABULARY WORDS! (For example, hysterical or words from their interest areas like Survival or Creeper.) You will be surprised at how often they use them even in kindergarten!