Whether you call them red words, heart words or sight words, teaching words to students that break all the phonics (the rules they have been explicitly taught) can often feel like pulling teeth.
Trying to engage 20 to 25 students in remembering words can often feel like a drag. And sometimes we feel and think that they are ‘getting it’ but then our data shows that its quite the opposite.
I have BEEN THERE and FELT LIKE A FAILURE because the way I was teaching sight words was not reaching all my students.
I have BEEN THERE and purchased all the games and independent work I could to engage my students, but it did not always work.
When I began to engage my students at the carpet for 5-10 minutes more and provided a little more direct instruction with our words, i began to see more traction with student retention and growth in their word knowledge.
Here are 5 ways to teach, reach, and engage students in learning their sight words.
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Designate and dedicate 5 minutes during your phonics block for sight word practice
- Review all words each day: Have your words hole punched on a ring or in a stack ready to go. Cycle through saying each word each day as a warm up to introducing the sight word of the day.
Remember to only focus on the words you are teaching whole class and not the differentiated words for small groups. If students are at mastery (reading and spelling) you can set that word aside, this rarely happens for my whole class.
- Introduce the new word to students by having them phonetically spell the word: Today students our word is are. Can you write on your board how you think we spell the word are? Some students may spell it correctly, while other may write ar or r .
- Show the correct spelling using a white board or a flash card and quickly discuss the part of the word that is breaking the phoneme rules that they know, in this case the r-controlled vowel a and e are breaking the rules. Students re-write the word on their board with the correct spelling.
- Students practice writing the word on their hand, the carpet, the air, and on their brain to help add kinesthetic and tactile practice while with you.
Erase and Write
Erase and write is a fun 3-4 minute moment helping students map new words.
You begin with the new word written on a board and so do students. You spell the word, then tell students you are going to ‘trick’ them by erasing some of the letters and that they need to tell you the missing letters!
You proceed add and erase letters from the word. Students tell you the missing letter and then say the whole word. You go through erase letters a few times until you erase the whole word and students write the whole word on their boards.
Here is an example:
What’s Hiding? A Red Word Game
A 5-10 minute whole group, small group, center game that focuses on word reading fluency!
I use this game at least twice a week with my kids and I teach my students how to play this game in centers.
Using a mini pocket chart, show students a series of sight words they are working on and some that they know. Behind one of the cards you have a hidden picture. Students take turns saying a sight word and guessing to see if the picture card is behind the word they choose.
Pro tip: print the cards on white cardstock. You do not need to laminate them if you do this!
Your job is to choose students, then like Vanna White, pull the card the student says. It is that easy. BUT is the MOST ENGAGING GAME that kids ask for!
To hide the picture card, students cover their eyes or turn around in their seats. Any way to have them hide from the game board while you move the hidden picture.
Teachers comment all the time telling me the hide minions or trolls. Whatever is cool and hip and school appropriate, hide behind the sight word cards!
Once students learn the game, you can begin to choose word leaders who know the words well and lead the class to play the game.
This is a great game whole group, student led and in a center.
If you need any more convincing, I LITERALLY pull students for assessments and have word leaders running this game for me. Kids love to be the teacher and I love when I can step away and allow kids to be leaders.
Kinesthetic Practice Using a Knitting Screen
I am not the teacher who likes shaving cream, sand, finger paint in a baggie. All these things kind of give me anxiety. I do not need more mess in my classroom than I already have from kids being kids.
What I do like is a tool that I pay for once, students can put into their toolbox, and still provides the SAME kinesthetic practice the other more messier things provide. So, we use knitting screens!
During independent practice, students review their sight words by tracing the words they know and are solidifying more in their brain by placing a knitting screen over the word and tracing the word while chanting, “A-R-E ARE” or whatever the word is that they are practicing.
They also place knitting screens under word practice pages and trace on the paper using a crayon. When the word is traced 3-4 times, the word becomes bumpy. Students then take the screen from under the paper and can feel the tactile surface of the word written in the crayon.
Less mess. Same kinesthetic practice with a reusable resource.
Use a Journal to Contextualize Words
Use a journal for seat work, send it home for distance learning and model in your own copy for kids over zoom or in class!
This is an independent way for students to practice their words while at their desk or at home!
I enjoy a great worksheet that keeps the main thing the main thing. I like worksheets that HIT home one skill in many ways.
I created sets of worksheets that do exactly this. Students engage in rainbow writing, writing on their own the word, contextualizing the word in a sentence they trace, composing their own sentence, THEN matching their sentence to a picture they draw to match.
That’s right, all of this in a SINGLE worksheet, that is not cluttered, not too busy, but rather FOCUSED on helping students to solidify the day’s word.
You can print a master set of the journal, re-order the pages to match your teaching sequence, then create journals for students to work in following your scope and sequence!
Each page has the same sequential procedure. That is to say, once they understand what to do, they can work on this independently BECAUSE they know exactly what to expect in each section of the worksheet!
Imagine a kindergartener able to do their work on their own AT HOME because the procedure for their work is the same each day.
Now, if you are ready to dive into the world of journals, here are the links to each set of journals focusing on red/sight/heart words:
It is that simple. Teaching CAN BE that SIMPLE!
We buy all these cool toys, gadgets, slides, and colorful, shiny objects we think will help grow skills. In the process we spend so much of our hard earned money and SOMETIMES kids do not grow.
Sometimes keeping it simple is the best way to keep student’s engaged. There is not much to it.
If you think you are ready to add some simple journaling and What’s Hiding? To your sight word routine, head over to the shop at Read Write Grow to get the materials to get you started.
And as always, if you need any support or ideas, I am here for you