Creative Ways to Practice Sight Words

Creative Ways to Practice Sight Words - Red Apple Reading ExpressIf you have younger elementary school students in your home, you are probably familiar with the term sight words”. Sight words are words that our children need to be extra familiar with and know how to read without doing so phonetically. In other words, they need to know them by sight. These words appear frequently throughout most texts we read each day. Therefore, it is important for us to help our children practice these words and become comfortable reading them. Today we will look at some creative ways we can help our little ones learn their sight words!

Go Outside
You don’t have to sit at a table to learn sight words; you can practice anywhere! Why not enjoy some fresh air and sunshine while practicing? We found some great ideas from others and we think you might enjoy them too! One mom (  wrote her child’s sight words on her wooden fence. After reading each word, her daughter took the water hose and erased them. Another mom ( wrote her child’s sight words in the squares of a hopscotch board and had her kiddo read the words as she played. You could also have a sight word scavenger hunt – just write your sight words on several different cards and hide them around the yard. Give your kid a basket and have him hunt for words! When he finds one, have him read it before placing it in the basket. As you can see, you are only as limited as your imagination.

Get Crafty
If your kiddo enjoys making crafts, incorporate craftiness into your sight word practice! For instance, you could let your little one finger paint her sight words on paper. One blogger ( had several good multi-sensory ideas for practicing sight words. A few of them included making words out of Play-Doh, Bendaroos, and glitter glue. If your child has an artistic flair, you could write his sight words on different shaped and colored pieces of paper. When you are done, have him make a collage with the word pieces (be sure he reads them aloud while placing them on the paper). These are all affordable projects that can be done with items you probably already have in your house. Put a little thought into how you can get crafty with sight words!

Play a Game
Do you have a child who always asks to play games with you? Great! There are several ways you can play games using sight words. Remember the mom ( from above with the great sight word hopscotch idea? She also created sight word Twister! By simply taping sight word cards onto a Twister mat, she combined playing and learning. Visit the No Time For Flashcards website to see how you can make a sight word domino game for your kiddo! If your little one enjoys playing cards, why not create sight word Go Fish? Instead of asking, “Do you have any sevens?”, you could ask, “do you have the word ‘of”?”  The potential game playing possibilities are endless! What game would your child enjoy playing with sight words?

Time spent helping your child learn does not have to be dull and frustrating. Hopefully, there are some some good ideas here that you can use when practicing sight words with your little one. You probably even came up with one or two fun ideas of your own! When you put these ideas into practice, your kiddo will not only be learning, he will also be having fun. If you are interested in more sight word activities, visit Red Apple Reading on Pinterest. We have a whole board devoted to sight words!

Phonics vs. Whole-Language Learning: Why Not Both? – Reading Essentials #13

Phonics vs. Whole Language Learning: Why Not Both?Educators have long debated whether phonics-based or whole language-based instruction leads to the most effective reading instruction.

Those who argue for a phonics-based “bottom up” approach point to the importance of auditory skills and phonological awareness in reading development. Knowing basic phonetic rules helps children learn to sound out words they might otherwise not know.

Those in favor of whole language, or a “top down” approach, see phonics instruction as perhaps slowing the process down, and argue that beginning readers should focus on meaning and vocabulary in a literacy rich environment, learning to recognize entire words as whole units.

Today, however, there seems to be consensus that no single approach is best for every child. The International Reading Association has stated that effective phonics instruction is important as part of a complete reading and language arts program. It is necessary, but it isn’t the only piece.

Most educators now use a district-mandated language arts curriculum that incorporates a balance between the two strategies, understanding that phonics instruction can be beneficial for learning letter sounds and for deciphering new words. Then, as developing readers become more proficient, instruction can rely less on phonics and more on whole word recognition. A variety of strategies are taught and children are exposed to many forms of literature.

Keep in mind that if your child is struggling with learning to read, any supplemental help you get should include both phonics and whole word instruction. Online reading programs like Red Apple Reading, for example, teach reading with a combination of phonics, sight words, and word family lessons. In this way your child is getting a balance of both phonics and whole language instruction, increasing the likelihood for reading success.

As your child becomes comfortable with sight words, you can encourage the transition toward whole word reading. Once your child has the phonics skills to attempt to sound out longer words, he or she will quickly discover that most words are not phonetically regular! This can lead to frustration–but can be an opportunity to introduce alternate reading strategies, such as:

  • Guessing words from context: If your child encounters an unknown word ask him to make a guess about the word, based on what would “make sense.” For example, if you are reading a book called “I Like Toys,” and the first sentence is “I have a (toy),” and your child cannot sound out the word toy, remind him of the title of the story. You can also give a phonics “hint” by pointing to the “t” at the beginning of the word and making the /t/ sound. With the beginning sound and a prompt to think about what word would make sense, a child will most likely be able to produce the correct word.
  • Looking at pictures: Using the same example, if your child was stuck on the word “toy,” you could point to the picture accompanying the text and ask your child to guess based on what is illustrated.
  • Skipping and returning: In the example sentence, if a child knew or guessed the words “I,” “a,” and “toy,” but was stuck on the word “have,” you could suggest a “skipping and returning” strategy. Tell your child to skip the word “have” and read the rest of the sentence. Then return and look at the sentence as a whole, reading it as “I /h/— a toy.”  Then ask your child what word would make sense.

As your child encounters more new words through reading, the words will become increasingly familiar, and will soon be read automatically. This will enable your child to read more complex text and longer and more complicated words.

What are your thoughts on the best strategies for teaching reading? We’d love to hear from you.

The Importance of Learning Sight Words – Reading Essentials #12

The Importance of Sight Words - Reading Essentials #12Ever wonder why your child’s teacher stresses the importance of practicing the words on those dreaded flash cards in Kindergarten and First Grade? Believe it or not, the top three hundred or so sight words make up about two-thirds of all written matter. Imagine, then, how much easier it will be for your child to read once she masters them!

Reading words as whole words is what more advanced readers do when they read. As you read this post, you’re not taking the time to break down every individual word you read into its basic phonemes (if you did, reading one simple sentence might take all day!).

Advanced readers have enough practice with reading that almost all words are familiar, and are recognized as a whole unit. For example, when you see the word “family,” you do not have to sound out /f/ /a/ /m/ /i/ /l/ /y/, but rather your brain recognizes the word, associates it with its meaning, and places it within a logical context in the sentence. This enables you to read quickly, and that in turn ensures that you understand what you are reading.

Your child will also begin to identify whole words while learning how to read. For example, he or she will start to understand that the word “cat” is more than just the letters “c,” “a,” and “t,” put together, that it is just the whole word “cat,” and it will be associated with a small furry creature. Other whole words that your child may begin to identify are sight words.

Sight words, also called high frequency words, are the words that appear with the highest frequency in written text.

Some sight words, such as “at” and “an,” are phonetically regular and can be sounded out by beginning readers. Many of them, however, are not (for example “about” and “could”) and must therefore be recognized as whole words. Even if a sight word is phonetically regular, since it appears with such frequency in text it is better for the word to be read automatically. This will speed up the reading process for a beginning reader, leading to greater fluency and stronger comprehension.

There are several compiled lists of the highest frequency words. Probably the most well-known sight word lists are Fry’s 1000 Instant Words and Dolch Word Lists. These lists detail the words that beginning readers should learn to instantly identify when reading. Over half of all written material is comprised of the first 300 words on Fry’s Word list, so familiarity with these words is understandably an essential component of reading.

There are many ways in which you can give your child practice with identifying sight words and other whole words:

  • Expand your Letter Wall into a Word Wall: Prominently place sight words, especially phonetically irregular words like “from” and “or,” on a magnetic surface, whiteboard, bulletin board or other area. As your child becomes familiar with other new words, include them on your word wall.
  • Word Games: Play word games such as Bingo and Memory, which involve whole word recognition.
  • Flash cards: Give your child extra practice with sight words by running through sight word flash cards.
  • Writing Activities: Offer your child the opportunity to begin writing known words. Practice with encoding familiar words will help his familiarity with new words.
  • Sight Words in Text: Pause to point out sight words when reading with your child.
  • Playing Online Learning Games: The first level of Red Apple Reading, for example, teaches the first 100 words from Fry’s word list, in combination with beginning phonics skills.

K12 Reader has some more ideas if you are interested. And Pinterest fans can find a huge number of ideas by typing “sight words” into the Search feature.

The more you vary the learning and spend time working on sight words, the more quickly your child will learn and remember them. So take those words the Kindergarten teacher sent home and have some fun with them!

Do you have any great ideas to share that worked for you? Please share them with us below.