Are you drilling your students everyday on sight words? You use the flashcards, you painted the words on the wall of your classroom, you sent home the sight words in a little baggie? The classroom television plays that sight word PowerPoint each morning? You have an incentive chart on the wall to show how many words each student knows? You have sight word parties each month, but you just are not seeing the progress that you want? Maybe it time to stop these assessment rituals and shift to some solid reading practices that promote sight word knowledge.
So let’s talk about three things that should be happening in any class.
If you have children, you definitely have experienced the Favorite Book Syndrome. This is when your toddler has been read a book several times and falls in love with it. He or she begins to read the book to you-all of the time. I know that I had a love hate relationship with Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, Are you my Mother? and Brown Bear, Brown Bear because of this syndrome. Most parents ignore it and assume that the child has just memorized the book and is not ‘really’ reading. Think about that assumption: The child has memorized the book. We want them to memorize the sight words, right? Well, that repeated reading has done just that. Not only has your child learned these words, but they have learned them in context, had them modeled by you, can recognize those same words and how they are used in other texts. They not only learned the words, but they learned how they are used, how they sound, and a bevy of patterns, punctuation rules, and vocabulary that we aren’t even thinking of as relevant when we focus on sight words alone. This is much more than memorizing a word. Repeated reading of books helps students to practice their sight words in context and become better readers.
What should this look like in a class? Use your read aloud time to share a favorite book A LOT. Let your students read that same book to each other, for the class, and with you. This is a great time to pull out those Big Books. Create Eric Carle and Flora McDonald fans through your shared readings and read alouds.
When you share a poem or short excerpt of text, post it on the wall for students to see and encourage them to read the room. Make copies and put them in sheet protectors in the ‘Reading Binder’ so that students can reread during independent reading time.
You will be amazed with the results.
These can be used appropriately or inappropriately. Don’t give them magnetic walls to make the words that they don’t know. Let the students have access to numerous letters and create words and sentences. You will notice that the repeated readings will guide their initial letter formations and encourage them to create sentences because they have seen and heard words used in context multiple times. Whenever you see letters at the Dollar Store, grab them. The more the better. In my classroom I mounted twin boards in the back made of sheet metal. Sheet metal sheets can be cut to any size and cost about ten dollars at Home Depot or Lowes. Can’t attach them to the wall? Pull them out and lay them on the floor for the kids to use. Combine that with cookie sheets from the Dollar Store that they can set right on the desk or lap, add a few crates of magnetic letters, and you have added some opportunities for students to think about words and create them.
Word Sorts and Scrambles
Instead of giving students a key ring of index cards, why not let the kids cut them up from index cards, scramble them, and rearrange them? Let them work with the words to constantly to renegotiate the sounds and think about meaning. Staring at a card is never, ever going to work.
These are three strategies that I religiously use, but that are far more. Check out Comprehension from the Ground Up by Sharon Taberski for some great instructional strategies.