How I Taught My Kindergartners 125 Sight Words

Are you faced with the seemingly IMPOSSIBLE task of teaching your little ones a MOUNTAIN of sight words?  During my teaching career, I was never required to teach my kindergartners more than 50, although many of them went above and beyond those requirements. Recently, I "met" a very talented teacher online who told me that her entire Kindergarten class had mastered 125 words! I was amazed, and so we started chatting about her experiences. My immediate assumption was that she worked in a school with a very high socio-economic population. You know- that she worked with kids whose families work with them at home, read to them, take them places, talk to them, and who send their children to high quality preschools.  However, I was very surprised that this was not the case!  I thought that many of you would be interested in hearing how she did it, so I invited her to write a guest blog post, and here it is! Enjoy!

How I Taught My Kindergarten Class How to Read 125 Sight Words

By: Lynette Carel

Teaching young people to read wasn’t something I thought I’d be doing when I began my career as a Kindergarten teacher 8 years ago. Sure, I knew I would be teaching them the joys of learning their sounds, identifying the letters of the alphabet, recognizing “some” words but reading? In Kindergarten?? I have to admit I felt intimidated by the thought.  How does a teacher even know where to begin? I knew I needed to start somewhere; our district wanted our kids to know the Pre-Primer and Primer Dolch words before first grade, so I desperately searched teacher chat rooms, asked questions, read blogs and that’s when I heard about HeidiSongs. I busted out the wallet, swiped the card and purchased my first Heidisongs DVD, SING and SPELL the SIGHT WORDS, Vol. 1. We started the year playing just 2 to 3 songs a day and the kids loved them! I thought to myself, I may just get these kiddos reading AND enjoying it. In addition to sight words we began identifying and creating word families and learning how to sound out and blend. It wasn’t long after purchasing the first DVD that I purchased the sight word DVD’s for volumes 2, 3 and 4 along with the accompanying “Worksheets, Mini-Songbooks and Flashcards sets Volumes 1 and 2.” As the year progressed and the students felt comfortable with blending, I added “Sounds Fun Phonics” to my collection of goodies.

During our phonics Instruction, students view which workstations they will be attending that day (these vary day to day until each student has had an opportunity to visit each station.) We practice our sight word list throughout the week in various ways. The more exposure to the word that they get, the easier it seems to “stick” with them.

On the week that we were studying St. Patrick’s Day, our study words were placed on “themed” cut-outs to correspond with what we had been learning. Here, some of the students were using letter tiles to practice spelling words. The boys below practiced identifying and reading their words through a “memory game”. Each took turns turning over a word, saying the word and finding its matching card. They enjoyed filling their pots with “golden words."

Our class practices the sight words together as a whole, watching Heidi on the SMART board. This is part of our morning routine, but we also practice again, in small groups during phonics time. Any students who has been struggling with a word or who just like to boogey enjoys the extra time in this station. Afterwards, we practice spelling the word we just sang by writing on our whiteboards.
Here is a sample of what the DVD's look like:

In the following workstation we practiced using our Heidi Worksheets. I placed each paper in a clear sheet protector and had students use dry erase markers to write with.

This week’s pocket chart station included the “Sounds Fun Phonics” Flashcards. The students used the cards to help them identify digraphs and diphthongs and/or combinations in their sight words. Using a highlighter, the students mark the part of their word that contains these and re-writes the word.

In addition to our Phonics time we participate in something called D.E.A.R. time (Drop Everything and Read). This is a 30 minute time frame in which students read independently, with a buddy or listen to a story. When our class first began DEAR time, most of the kiddos could sustain reading for only about 5 minutes. As the year progressed we added minutes until we reached our goal of 30 whole minutes! This 30 minute time frame allows students to choose books to read, participate in reading in different ways (with a buddy or by themselves) or enjoy listening to a story being read to them.

Our class is just about to begin our fourth nine-weeks and have to date learned 125 sight words! This wasn’t a small task to get all 18 students to learn and retain 125 sight words but we did it. This also didn’t happen overnight, we have built up to this point and enjoy reviewing the words we’ve learned this far. We practice our words often but never “Drill and Kill” and have review weeks where we play and manipulate the words we’ve already learned. We take our word lists home and have families assist and encourage their children to practice. I supply a list of various ways to “practice sight words at home” that aide in the learning process. I don’t know if there is an absolute “right way” or “wrong way” to get students to love learning sight words and begin reading. I’ve been fortunate enough to have found wonderfully creative teachers who have generously shared their ideas and have taught me that sometimes you just have to see what best works for you and your students.

Lynette Carel

Thanks, Lynette!


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