Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Sight Words – Part Four: More (Fun) Practice

Struggling readers need lots and lots of exposures before they start to recognize sight words automatically. It’s important to make practice fun, though, because the more of it a child is willing to do, the more she’ll benefit. Here are some ideas I’ve used in private tutoring and classrooms:

Sensory Practice
Let your student go beyond just seeing and writing words and recruit her tactile systems by:
  • giving her something with texture, like a sand tray, piece of carpet, or section of wall, and letting her trace words with her fingertip.
  • tracing a word on her back and asking her to guess what it is. Start with short words (“it,” “am,” etc.) If this is really tricky, ask her to say each letter as you trace it before you move on to the next one.
  • shaping the letters in the word with modeling clay rolled into ropes.
  • skywriting the word (tracing huge letters in front of her so that she has to use her whole arm), or writing the words in large letters on a dry erase board (or on a window with a dry erase marker or fingerpaint), chalkboard, or on a wall or sidewalk with a wet sponge or sidewalk chalk.
Cut-Out Flashcards
This one will work better for some kids than others, but it’s worth a try. Print out the sight words you want to practice in large font, then cut around the outside of the word, hugging the border of each letter as closely as you can. Don’t cut the letters apart; you want to cut around the word as a single unit. Discard the word itself and keep just the silhouette. Glue this onto a dark piece of construction paper and use these cards for drills. This format helps some students appreciate the shape of words so that they recognize them as whole units more readily.

Letter Mix-Up
Give the student a handful of Scrabble tiles or magnetized letters that spell a sight word and let her unscramble them. If she’s new to this, tell her what the word is before she begins. If she’s an old pro in need of a challenge, simply hand her the letters and challenge her to figure it out.

A note about the next two strategies: You need to mark in books for these, so I suggest either making photocopies of the pages or investing in temporary highlighting tools. I really like these erasable highlighters, and you can also try this removable highlighting tape.

Sight Word Hunt
Open a book so that two pages with text on them are visible (or hand out photocopies of different pages) and race to see who can find the most sight words you’ve studied on their page. Students can mark the words on the text, or write a list.

Real-World Reading
Let kids who love stories help you read them. Ahead of time, go through a book you plan to read to the student and highlight or circle all the sight words you’ve practiced. Then read to the child, using your finger to track so she can see where you are in the sentence. When you come to a highlighted word, pause to let her say it for you.

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