It’s a hard truth: today’s parents and kids are too busy to read.
With such a wide range of accessible resources available to parents, developing your child’s reading and comprehension skills can be difficult to tackle. But you have to remember that they are essential to their success in school, work and life. One of the most potent tools that you, as a parent, can employ is sight word recognition.
What are sight words?
While words like table, cup and bed are common in spoken language, they are not considered sight words since as they can be learned through phonetics and physical recognition. The most frequently used words in the English language, words like ‘the’, ‘a’, ‘is’, are examples of sight words. Most of these words cannot be learned by sound or illustration. After all, how in the world could we illustrate the word ‘of’ to convey meaning to a child who is still developing his/her decoding skills?
Repetition is key to developing good reading habits in your children. There are fun activities for kids purposefully designed to make learning sight words fun and engaging.
If you haven’t started educating your children with sight words, now is the time to start. Here are 20 tips to help your have fun while learning their sight words with ease. Here are the top tips and strategies for learning sight words.
1. Have an Overview of the Lesson
The sight words sessions should be split into two components – lesson and game time – each taking at least 30 minutes. The lesson time should be used to introduce three to five new words, while sight word games should be used to practice the already learned words. During the game, you can also review previously mastered words so that the child can develop speed and familiarity.
2. Let Them Name the Alphabet Confidently
Before starting sight words, your child needs to recognise and name all the letters as they occur in the English alphabet. They should be fluent in identifying them. A solid foundation in recognising and naming the letters in the alphabet instantly makes teaching sight words easy because the child is familiar with what makes up the words, and therefore how they are said. If their foundation in letter recognition is weak, you should first practice the letter names before proceeding.
3. Memory Games
You can now introduce new sight words with the help of techniques that encourage cognitive stimulation to enhance your child’s memory for words. Having a flash card for a each sight word is a great way to do this. Remember, although learning increases your child’s knowledge, true competence is most often achieved through engaging games that enforce your child’s mastery in recognising sight words. Done the right way, kids will enjoy the learning process all the way through.
4. Emphasise Repetition in Learning
When you have introduced three to five sight words, you can bring repetition into the learning process in several ways. As well as spoken repetition, body language enables your child’s attention to form cognitive association to the sight words being learned. Here are some of the major sense strategies you can employ in teaching:
See and Say – A child first sees the word that is on a flash card and then says the word.
Spell Reading – The child says the word and then spells out its letters and finally reads the word once again.
Arm Tapping – When a child says out loud the word, then spells out the letters as they are tapping them on his or her arm, and later reads the word once again.
Air Writing – A child writes the letters learned in the air while looking at the flash card.
Table Writing – A child first writes letters on the table for the first time while looking at the flash card and later repeats the process without looking at the flashcard.
5. Familiarity with New Words
Each lesson should establish basic familiarity with the new words. Most parents find that lesson part of each session takes around 10 minutes. When learning sight words for the first time, work on only 3-5 unfamiliar words to make it manageable for your child. As your child advances, you can expand the number of words you introduce in each lesson to power up their vocabulary.
6. Review and Reinforce Old Words
For effective learning, always start a lesson by reviewing the words you covered during the preceding lesson. Doing this helps your children to fully comprehend the words. During the review exercise, engage your child with a seeing and saying game. Mark all the words that the child is struggling to recognise and conduct a review of the words. For words that your child may find complicated, repeat them by using the five repetition techniques and by drawing their attention to the words at various times. It is best for a child to have mastery on the words before moving to new words.
7. Engage in Giving Constructive Criticism
Children often forget words, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Similar words might confuse them and they even struggle to recall unfamiliar words. It is normal that they find some words difficult and make mistakes in the process of learning. Be generous in giving constructive criticisms on proper pronunciation and meaning of the words as this helps them in committing them to their memory and vocabulary.
8. Word Association Through Word Patterns
During the first stage of developmental learning of sight words, your child can recognise words through a picture or shape and not by word patterns or individual letters. This can be a problem in learning sight words in the long term, but it is normal. For example, a child may not be able to differentiate between ‘look’ and ‘took’ as they appear so similar. The reason for this is the child cannot remember the specific word, so he or she tries to recall the shape created by the word. Although this may work in the beginning, it’s best to move your child away from this type of recognition.
9. Word of the Day or the Week
Consider coming up with a “Word of the Day” or “Word of the Week” strategy where a child is given a word and must construct a sentence from that word. You can put the word in question on the fridge or a chart where your child can easily see it.
10. Spelling Practise
Conduct a fun group game, such as a spelling game contest of sight words. This works particularly well if you have several children, but you can also make it a ‘game show’ style contest with mum or dad. Of course, it’s fun and engaging. Plus, it is helpful for them to learn sight words.
11. Spelling Word Memory
A double set of sight word cards makes for a great spelling word memory game. It begins by first laying out the cards facing down. Your child picks up one card and must then find the card that matches, running through the other cards until they do so. Correctly matching all the cards improves memory as well as word recognition.
12. Flip Four Steps Game
This game allows your kid to practice reading, writing or spelling of sight words. Have your child flip over a word card of his or her choice and then read it out loud. They should then say the individual letters in the word before flipping the card back and writing the word on the back of paper. This game is fun and enjoyable because it challenges your child to learn and understand words, as well as write and spell them.
13. Trace, Copy, Recall Game
You will just need to draw three columns on a paper. Label the first column ‘Trace’, then label the next column ‘Copy’, and the last column ‘Recall’. Choose a sight word and write it in the first column, and then have the child trace all the letters. Next, let the child copy the word while looking at what he or she has written in the first column. Finally, let the child fold and hide first two columns and try to remember the correct spelling of each word individually.
14. Chalkboard Race
This is a great group activity to do in a family, or with children of a similar age who are learning their sight words. Ask the children to form two teams. The team should identify one player from each team as the ‘scribe’ for each turn, and that scribe should stand at least 2 metres from a chalkboard, or other writing surface. When you call out a word, the scribe from each team runs to the board very quickly and write the sight word you’ve called out. The child who correctly spells the words and finishes first wins the game. The different teams can offer suggestions on the correct spelling of words if the word was misspelled.
15. Ball Toss
Instruct your children to stand in a circle holding a Nerf ball (or similar) to toss around. Call out a word and toss the ball to one child. The child with the ball should spell out the word. If the child does not spell the word correctly, he or she will toss the ball to the next child. The process continues until the word is spelled correctly whereby one kid tosses the ball to the adult to come up with a new word. The game is engaging and all children will enjoy in passing out the ball while spelling sight words.
16. Teaching Sight Words Using Word Walls
Word walls have been widely used in classrooms, and they can be used in the home as well. They provide visual presentation of high frequency words in the English language and help children see patterns and relationships in words. They are also a great reading reference. Set up the wall in an area where your children can easily see them, and encourage them to read from the wall and identify words during sight word practice.
17. Sing it Out Loud
Try incorporating music to sight word learning. After all, your child might be the next Mozart! You can sing a song to the tune of ‘Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star’ or ‘Roar’ by Katy Perry. You call the shots!
18. Word Walk
Write sight words on a big index cards and lay them on the floor. The goal is for your child to spell and read each word before taking a step forward. He or she can only move a step if the word is spelled and pronounced correctly.
19. Teaching Through Manipulatives
You can use magnetic letters, cookie cutter, a Lego block or even rubber stamps in helping your child learn the words. These kinds of mediums are easy to bring into the home, and you may already have the tools you need to get started.
20. Hit it with a Ball
Write sight words on a huge card then tape it on an empty wall. The goal of this game is for students to find the words you call out, read them and finish them off by hitting with a stuffed ball. You can also do variations like letting them choose their own word, read it, and then hit it with the ball.
Learning sight words can be fun exciting and entertaining.
These learning techniques are effective in helping kids understand the word’s concept as well as its meaning, all while having fun. A good understanding of sight words at a younger age provides a strong foundation for future learning ability, especially when it comes to reading. For parents, it’s a way to give your kids a head start in a new world of learning.
As well as what we’ve mentioned, you can try many other strategies depending on your child’s individual skill at comprehending sight words. Some kids have a shorter attention span, while others can quickly grasp almost everything in a lesson. If your child shows very little progress, it can help to pause for a moment and give them time to catch up before continuing. Above all, it’s important to have patience with their learning process, and make adjustments as they need them.
Being a parent is a full-time job, but there are many opportunities to educate your children and help them on their way. Teaching your children their sight words sets a great learning foundation, and it really does begin with a single step.