Studies have shown that there are a number of words in the English language that are high-frequency words. These words need to be seen only about 20 times before they are committed to memory. There are several lists of these words used by teachers; the most common is the Dolch Basic Sight Vocabulary, which consists of 220 words. Another is Fry’s List of 1,000 High-Frequency Words. Exposing students to these words on a regular basis will increase their reading speed and comprehension as well as their general vocabulary.
Use Word Walls. An excellent activity for introducing sight words to students is to prepare a word wall. Every week, add a new cluster of words from the Dolch or Fry list to the word wall. Daily practice in reading the words and using them in telling stories, writing poems or producing artwork will expose learners to the word enough times that they will be able to read the word on sight.
Flash cards are useful in teaching about new words. This is a great activity for older students for whom English is a second language who might not want to play games or participate in activities. The flash cards displaying the high-frequency words can be used as a deck of index cards or flashed on an overhead projector each day. The key is to expose the students to the words frequently enough that they will recognize them on sight.
Play Games! Playing games can be very beneficial, especially with younger children because they don’t feel like they are working. One game to use to expose students to sight words is bingo. There are websites that offer free printable bingo cards or you can make them. It can be helpful to have the children make the game cards to expose them to the words.
Learn the different Sounds and Letters. Along with opportunities to see the sight words on a frequent basis, students also should learn the different sounds that accompany the sight words. Activities that concentrate on digraphs, such as “sh,” “ph” and “th,” help students to quickly learn a sight word. They also should be exposed to blended consonants, such as “tr,” “st” and “bl.”
Students can play a game where they are given 30 seconds to write a word for each digraph or blended consonant. The student (or team) with the most wins a small prize.
Don’t forget good old worksheets! The most common form of sight-word practice is using worksheets, such as word finds and crossword puzzles. These forms of practice offer students the opportunity to see and use the high-frequency words. Offer the students opportunities to create their own crosswords and word finds.
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