Are you teaching Sight Words this year and have NO idea how to start? Sight words can be scary, especially as a new teacher. You may not have a curriculum, activities, worksheets, a plan to what order or how you will teach them.
That was me the last couple years. I still remember when my District handed me 120 words (Yes, 120!) to teach to my Kindergarten Class. Naturally, I assumed that when I got my curriculum it would tell me EXACTLY how to teach them.
To my dismay, no such luck! I began to panic because I realized I had no idea how to teach my students their sight words. No clue on what order to teach the words in or how many to teach at one time. I also had no idea how often we should practice them or where to find worksheets or activities that would be fun or engaging.
It took me YEARS of experimenting and researching to finally perfect the way I teach sight words. And A LOT of mistakes! When I started teaching Sight Words there were not a lot of resources out there on how to teach them. I felt like it was such a “taboo” topic that almost every teacher knew how to teach them but me!
But after talking to some fellow Primary Teachers, I realized that I wasn’t alone! That’s why I created this blog to share with you 6 mistakes I made while teaching sight words. That way you don’t have to learn the hard way.
But first, let’s talk about ‘What are Sight Words?’
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What are Sight Words?
Sight words are the basic words that make up most of the words we say (like a, I, can, see, the, etc.). They are words that do not follow the basic Rules of the English Language and must be memorized rather than taught. There are some debate on the difference between Sight Words and High Frequency Words. Some people use them interchangeably. I personally use Sight Words because that is what my District is referring to them as.
What resources you have will also depend on the District you are in. Some Districts will have a curriculum in place, some will hand you a list of words (like mine), and some Districts will have you create your own list. It really just depends on your District.
But regardless of what you started with, I want to give you some pointers on what I did and what did not work out for me. That way you don’t have to learn the hard way!
So let’s get start on some of the mistakes I made and how to avoid them:
6 Mistakes I Made Teaching Sight Words:
1. Not Enough Planning
One of the biggest mistakes I made was not planning how or when I was going to teach Sight Words. I knew that I was going to teach Sight Words during my Whole Group Reading Instruction. But I did not designate specific time to teach them. I just assumed I would teach them when I had time.
HUGE mistake! What I found myself doing, was skipping over them because I had something else important to do. As a Teacher, crazy things would come up! Like assessmblies, fire drills, snow days, visitors, (etc.). Well, you get the picture. When something like this would come up unexpectedly I would put Sight Words on the back burner and promise myself I would teach it tomorrow.
It never happened. That’s why I suggest really planning out when and how you are going to teach them. It does matter, I promise! The performance of my students really depended on whether I even got to teach Sight Words in the first place.
Some ideas for Planning How and When to Teach Sight Words:
- Break your sight words up by week
- Designate specific time each day to teach them
- Be Consistent
2. Not Enough Activities
I am going to be totally honest… My First Year Teaching I only showed my class Flashcards to practice Sight Words. And that was it!
Yep, I know! How can I expect my students to memorize words if they only see them for 5 minutes a day?
That is why my second mistake is that I didn’t use enough activities.
Now don’t get me wrong, we have A LOT to cover as a teacher. Trust me, I get it! I’m not suggesting that you spend an hour teaching them. Who has time for that? I’m just saying that when you do your centers, try to have at least one center focused on the words you covered that day. Even a 10 hour station can really be the difference between mastery and needing improvement.
Trust me! A lot of my kids really had a hard time passing their assessments because I didn’t do more activities with them. I only showed them the word once a day and called it good. My biggest struggle was I didn’t really know how or what activities I could use. Now that I am in my 3rd year, I love using activities because they are fun and engaging!
With that said, here are some other ways to teach your Students Sight Words:
- Worksheets (I found a lot of these on TPT! or I have some free ones here)
- Games (Like Go Fish!, Match, or Kaboom!)
- Fun Activities (Like Painting, Finding it in the Classroom, Fly Swat the Sight Word, etc.)
- Sight Word Bingo! (I have a set here if you do not want to create your own!)
3. Not Enough Review
Starting to see a pattern? A lot like ‘Not Enough Activities,’ did not review throughout the day like I should have. Oftentimes, I would show my kids the Sight Words once and expect them to memorize it for the week.
How awful, right? No wonder my students would have a hard time on their assessments at the end of the week or the quarter.
On average, a person needs to see or learn something at least 5 times to memorize it. This is not what I was doing, in fact I was doing the complete opposite!That is why you need to review the sight words with your students throughout the day.
There were so many opportunities I could have been reviewing while my kids were multitasking! Like while excusing for a bathroom break, brain breaks, lining up for specials or lunch. There are so many opportunities you can incorporate reviewing your Sight Words if you have the right resources!
Here are some tips on how to Review Sight Words with your Students:
- Exit Ticket
- Write it in their Agenda to Share at Home
- Brain Break (Jack Hartman Video or even Kahoot!)
- Share with a Partner (Share with a Friend what Sight Word(s) we are Learning today)
4. Not Enough Assessments (At Least Where it Counts)
My first year teaching, I only tested my students once over a 9 week period. This goes for Sight Words too! My school grades by Quarter so once every 9 weeks I would test my students and that would be their score for that quarter.
My students were so nervous. When I finally tested them, a lot of them panicked and failed the test. A lot of them were very nervous and would freeze during the test.
Looking back now, I realize that I was not setting up my students for success. I was only counting 1 test for their grade! No wonder they would panic. That’s when I decided it was time for a change. I started testing my students on a weekly basis. That way they don’t panic on the ‘big day.’ To do this I would test them every friday on the words we learned that week.
The Best Part: I would record that in my Data so that way I could back track if needed.
The Even Better Part: I would send it home with their Agenda so they could practice over the weekend! Win-win, right? My students had multiple opportunities to show me what they knew. AND my families were involved.
My Students did a lot better on their tests and they felt better too!
Here are some other ways you can test Students on their Sight Words on a weekly basis:
- Sight Word Progress Report on Friday (Like I mentioned above)
- Kahoot! Assessments
- Point to the Sight Word
- Color the Sight Word
5. No Incentive
I did not give my students a reason to learn their Sight Words. The only reason they were learning their sight words was to pass the test. They dreaded learning sight words. Learning Sight Words for them wasn’t fun or engaging. Which made it even harder to teach them.
That is why I decided to give them an incentive to learn as many words as they could. Hence, the Sight Word Data Wall. Now, many of you might have heard of the word wall. How it would work is my students would move their pin based on how many sight words they knew. You can make your own or I found one on TPT here.
It was a GAME CHANGER. My students were excited to keep track of how many words they knew so they could show their friends. They also got a prize whenever they reached a certain amount of words.
Here are some other incentives for Students to learn their Sight Words:
- Sight Word Data Wall
- Certificate For Learning Sight Words
- Sight Word Party
6. Not Getting Families Involved
Families can be scary. Especially to new teachers. My first year I was terrified. It wasn’t until I started reaching out to them, that I realized parents are happiest when they are involved.
Now I’m not saying to force a parent to get involved. But giving them that option will greatly impact your relationship with parents. It gave my students incentive because they were also being held accountable for their learning.
That Sight Word Lists GREATLY changed the dynamic in my classroom. That’s why I am offering it For Free in my Free resource Library (linked below).
When my students had their families support, and families felt involved, I noticed my students were excited. They felt determined to learn their Sight Words so they could show their family their Progress Report.
Okay guys I may have added another one. I absolutely love having you guys read my post and sharing my knowledge. So I have actually a Bonus Mistake I made.
And this one is arguably the BIGGEST mistake I made!
7. No Confidence
You’re students can tell when you are not confident.
And if you are not confident teaching sight words, your students may not be motivated. This isn’t just for Sight Words. But EVERYTHING!
You have to genuinely be excited to teach Sight Words. My kiddos dreaded Sight Words. And it wasn’t because of them.
It’s because I dreaded teaching Sight Words. Mostly because I didn’t feel confident. That is why I highly recommend the following tips to get enthused and confident about Sight Words:
- Mix it up- Try something new! Whether it’s a new activity, worksheet, game, whatever! Just try something you are genuinely excited to try!
- Do your research- research what activities you want to do beforehand
- Watch Them Grow- Your kids, come in not knowing how to read. When they learn their Sight Words, they suddenly can read to you their first chapter book. Don’t miss it! Be Present! This is what teaching is all about!
So, what about you? Have you made a mistake teaching Sight Words? Or do you have an idea I did not mention?
Thank you guys so much for reading my Blog Post, I look forward to hearing from you!
The Present Teacher