Sight words, High Frequency Words, Popcorn Words
Whatever you call them chances are if you are a primary teacher you have a list of them that students are supposed to learn! If you are a parent your child has a list of them that you are supposed to help with!
Sight words are ESSENTIAL for becoming a fluent reader!
And becoming a FLUENT reader is essential for understanding (comprehension) text books as well as other meaningful written language for the rest of your life!
According to this info graphic from Samson's Classroom over 50% of most every piece of written text is composed of sight words!
In 1996 Dr. Fry published a book called "Fry 1000 Instant Words". Dr. Fry found the following results through his research:
25 words make up about 1/3 of all written material
100 words make up about 1/2 of all written material
300 words make up about 3/5 of all written material
I don't know about you but I want to know those 300 words! And I want my students to know those 300 words!
Have I convinced you sight words are a necessary evil yet?
Good let's move on.
So we know we want our students to know these 300 words that make up 65% of all written language. We even know what words they are thanks to Dolch and Fry!
How do we teach our darling little students them?
Cause they are words like
Words as I tell my students that - Don't Play Fair!
For the record when I taught Kindergarten we called them Popcorn Words because they POPPED up in books all the time, and we would BUTTER (highlight) them in our little mini books - It was great!
but these words don't play fair. So as a teacher, and especially a reading teacher. I want every strategy known to teachers up my sleeve to use to help my students learn these oh so important words!
This post is NOT about which words you should teach in what grade or how many or anything like that - that is a BIG topic but not one I want to delve into I want to help you teach WHATEVER words to your students!
So here it is my strategies for teaching sight words!
1. Explicit, intentional, purposeful PHONICS instruction.
Yes that is right. Phonics instruction can help with sight word instruction.
Not every single letter in every single sight word breaks every rule! In fact only about 4% of words have to be learned completely visually (Hanna, Hanna, Hodges & Rudorf: 1966).
(Yes OF does we will get to it in a minute)
I feel like this was my biggest mistake when I taught Kindergarten for six years, 6 years ago. I have grown as a teacher and I have learned! Many sight words have pieces or parts that play by the rules!
If your students are taught phonics they can apply those strategies to help them figure out or at least start to figure out some sight words!
This includes secondary sounds for letters such as C, Z, and G along with teaching them the strategy of FLIP THE SOUND or try a different sounds this is also great for VOWELS and Y!
2. Identifying what a SIGHT WORD is.
There are words on that list of 300 that absolutely can be sounded out, and they are absolutely good to learn! But they can be sounded out with phonics skills and are therefore phonetic words and not SIGHT WORDS (recognize by sight).
Word sorts are a great way for students to identify those words that can be sounded out and those that can't, and even a third group where parts can be sounded out! These sorts will change depending on your level of students as they learn more phonics rules. For example my Kindergarten kids would say NOW breaks the rules but my second graders wouldn't because they have been taught the OW dipthong.
3. Word and letter shape. Due to the high reliance on the shape of the letters that form the words, especially for SIGHT words and especially in Kindergarten using boxes that are tall, short, etc. with the same number of boxes as letters is a GREAT way to help students begin to visualize the difference in words and therefore begin to recognize words by sight!
Including my Box It Up Sight Words which is pages of words that have the boxes like show above in the BOX IT portion!
4. Seeing it in context or giving it meaning.
If you have read my Just Say No to Nonsense Words post you know how I feel about words and meaning. But how do you convey meaning of the word THE to a Kindergartener.
You put it in the context of a sentence, and you compare the sentence with and without the word in it!
This is where our "buttering" (highlighting) our popcorn words came in to play when I taught Kindergarten. It also helps with visual discrimination.
To Grab the set show in the picture above click this link HERE to go to my TPT store and grab it!
5. Repetition, Practice, Repetition and Practice. Students need to be exposed to sight words over and over and over and over! They need to continually work with these words and be exposed to and assessed on them. Especially struggling students who with the addition of new sight words sometimes get confused with the ones we "thought" they had already learned.