How I Teach Sight Words in Kindergarten

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Every year that i’ve taught kindergarten i’ve changed up how I teach sight words because i’ve never been quite happy with my routine. This year I took what worked in past years and tweaked what didn’t work, and I think i’ve found my perfect sight word routine!

To give you some context, we just ended our first quarter yesterday and i’ve taught 19 sight words so far. I teach a class of 29 students, many of whom came in knowing almost no letters, with high poverty and a large ELL population. 20 of my students can read all 19 words, and these don’t include the color words we’ve learned. My lowest babies can read at least 5 each! I’m seeing this growth extend to their reading and writing as well!

So what am I doing this year?

I’m a big fan of Mr. Greg from The Kindergarten Smorgasboard and i’ve used elements of his Sight Word 60 routine for the last 3 years now. I’m still using most of his routine, but i’ve tweaked it to fit our needs.

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This area of our board is part of the “Command Central” of our classroom. I can’t show you the rest because it has student names, but our focus words stay up here all week. In his routine, Mr. Greg introduces 4 words a week, but I have been sticking with 3 words because that seems to be the “just right” amount for my kids. The first couple of weeks I only taught 1-2 a week as we got used to school, and some weeks I use as a review to cover the words from the week before if most students are struggling with them.

I don’t really have an order to introduce words. I’ve been introducing words together that can make a sentence and that seems to have helped. If there is a word we haven’t learned yet that students keep asking me about during Writer’s Workshop, i’ll make sure it’s one of our words for the next week.

So onย Day One, we introduce the sight words as part of our morning routine. I use the words in a sentence and then students give me sentences with the words. We review them every morning.

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We do interactive writing together daily using at least one of our sight words in each sentence. This is a separate time from Writer’s Workshop.ย On the first day, i’m not concerned about using capital/lowercase letters correctly because I want them to focus on the words. The rest of the week, I will correct them.

For interactive writing, I tell students a sentence and draw a line for each word. We “read” the blank lines a few times to make sure we remember the sentence. Then I have one student at a time come up to write the sight words. When we get to an unknown word, I help students stretch it out. Sometimes we only get down 1-2 sounds, but we are working on the -at family this week so students were able to write these words themselves.

In addition to Interactive Writing, we also do Writer’s Workshop when students are writing independently and guided writing as a part of guided reading groups. Writing is one of the best, best, BEST things students can do when learning sight words because if you can write it, you can read it!

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Excuse the blurry picture! We also do shared reading daily and I make sure our poem contains as many of our sight words as possible. Usually I use a real poem, but this week I just made up the simplest poem possible because I wanted it to have our sight words and -at family words.

We use this poem for so many things! We read it together every morning and students LOVE to be the “teacher” and use the pointer to lead the reading. We use the poem to count words in a sentence, identify rhyming words, clap syllables, and find sight words.

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Every Friday, we search in the poem to find and circle our sight words. If they find the word inside of a larger word, I let them circle that too because it helps them begin to see chunks in those big words and, honestly, i’m just excited they’re finding them!

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We do a different hands-on activity daily, and I absolutely love these ones from DeeDee Wills, but one of our favorites is roll and write! We always do this on Day Two, but i’ll also use this if we have an extra five minutes between transitions.

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For a die, I use this dry erase die from Dollar Tree. I do NOT use dry erase marker on it, though, because it wipes right off! Instead I use a permanent marker and then erase it later with hand sanitizer and a tissue.

Students take turns rolling the die, reading the word, and then writing the word on the board. They get so excited to see which word is winning!

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Many of our literacy centers for the week are focused on sight words, but these are some of my favorite low prep centers that i’ve found keep students engaged!

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The first is making sight words with magnets. I found when my students were supposed to be matching letters/sounds here, they would usually get off task and start making sight words or their name anyway. I decided to just go with it and make it a center!

I have a metal AC unit in my classroom, so I just wrote on the sight of it with permanent marker. I’m hoping and praying it comes off, but it you weren’t this brave (or dumb), you could always use dry erase markers!

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Another favorite is playdough mats:

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Of course, we love to use these with playdough and that is one center choice, but I also like to mix it up sometimes and break out the tweezers! You can have students make the letters with pompoms, base ten cubes, or beans and they will be thrilled!

I’ve also just updated these mats so that their are two versions included. One just has the sight word, and I have updated the font, but the second version has the word to trace and write as well so they can make it, trace it, write it.

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On Day Five, we take our focus words and add them to our word wall. We make this a big deal with drum rolls and applause (and they think it’s hilarious to see me climb the AC unit to hang up the words).

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Please ignore the mess there! #realteacherlife. I have a huge space for my word wall this year, but it’s not as close to the kids as I would like. Because of that, i make the words as big as possible. I write them with a Mr Sketch marker on 3×5 index cards. I’ve switched marker colors now that we have quite a few words up so that they stand out more.

I hope you enjoyed seeing how i’ve been teaching sight words this year and maybe got a few new ideas to try in your classroom! If you have a highly effective sight word routine, I would love to hear about it below!

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