Word work is a key part of literacy instruction at school, so it makes sense to add plenty of word practice into home literacy routines as well. My favorite word work activities give kids an opportunity to have fun and involve their hands, minds and senses as they learn about words. The best activities get kids manipulating letters and playing word games, drawing words, building words…really exploring words and word parts using creative and kinesthetic activities.
Sight words are the common words most frequently used in children’s literature and in writing. Since they’re so common, we want young readers and writers to quickly recognize them on sight. Some sight words don’t follow regular spelling rules, so they need to be memorized and read as a whole word rather than by sounding them out.
Why do we care about sight words? Mastering sight words makes reading comprehension and writing easier simply because those words account for the majority of the words we read and write. For example, kids who know the first three hundred words from a commonly used sight word list, know about 65% of all words in print!
As I talked about here, I’m working on helping my second grader with spelling at home. Many of the words he misses in his writing are sight words. When we practice, we’re focusing on the following keys for sight word mastery.
- Repetition: See and write the words. A lot.
- See and use the words in context, rather than just memorizing a list.
- Phonics: We want kids to read sight words automatically, but it’s still worth it to spend time noticing how the words are spelled. Is the word spelled phonetically? If not, which parts are easy to sound out and which parts are tricky? While many sight words are spelling rule breakers or “outlaw words,” many more sight words can be read and spelled correctly by focusing on the sound each letter or letter combination makes.
- And to make learning stick and prevent it from feeling like a chore…Involve the senses: Sing the spelling, use movement games, arrange letters to form the words, write them in different ways with different materials, and visualize them.
One of the main activities we’ve been doing is “picturing” the words. Paying attention to the visual “look” of the word, (the letters that make up the word and the word shape), and creating memorable images of the word.
I also created phrase labels that contain sight words. We’re using these to label things around the house that fit each description on the label. Some are funny, and it takes a bit of creativity to decide what to label, so it’s a fun way to see the sight words in a meaningful context.
Up until recently, we’ve been using notebook paper and choosing words I notice my son misspells in his writing. I just decided to get organized and pull it all together in this Picture and Label Sight Word Practice pack. I’m now going through the words section by section, pretesting him to see which ones he knows and then focusing on the ones he doesn’t. We’re starting with the Fry second hundred list because many of the words he’s missing are from that list. This pack includes pages for all of the Fry words 101-200, a journal cover page that kids can personalize, a pretest form, phrase labels and a page with extra practice ideas. I also threw in a word search/word unscramble page for each section of words because my son looooves word searches!
To keep things fresh, it’s great to have a few new word work tricks up your sleeve. Check out my Word Work board on Pinterest to see some of my favorite activities.
You can also find more word work resources in my Teachers Pay Teachers store. Both of the following resources are free!
Have fun working with words, everyone!