If your preschooler is anything like mine, she’s ready and willing to learn new things on a daily basis. Most recently, my little girl (3 1/2) has been asking me to teach her how to read. We’re using Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons and BOB books at this point, and she’s doing really well. She’s already sounding out many consonant-vowel-consonant words (CVCs), and has read two of the BOB books independently. This success is fantastic but approximately 50-75% of words found in books are considered “sight words.” While some of these words are decodable, many of them follow rules that beginning readers haven’t learned yet (for instance, even though Riley hasn’t learned the /th/ sound, she can read books that use the word the).
Allow me to add a disclaimer right here: I’m a huge supporter of phonics-based instruction. I think it is absolutely necessary for children to learn phonics in order to become successful readers (and, later on down the road, spellers). However, sight words do play a part in just about every phonics program. That’s where this activity comes in.
Using just a few items that you probably have around your house, you can create fun activities to help your child memorize a few sight words. For this activity, you’ll need a marker, small slips of paper or card stock, and several small toys or objects your child enjoys. For this activity, I made 5 cards with the following words written on them: Riley, has, a, and, and a. We arranged them on the dining room table as shown in the photo below.
Since sight words are learned by memory, your goal is for your child to memorize these five words. Be sure you (or your child) are pointing to each word as you say the sentence. Pause longer than normal and point dramatically so your student realizes that each word corresponds with a set of letters. After a few tries, have your child point to each card and object as he reads the sentence (Riley has a zebra and a crayon.). Switch the items after several times through and show your student that regardless of what the items may be, the sight words remain the same. Before you know it, your child will recognize these words when he sees them in a book or in the grocery store.
Obviously, this activity isn’t limited to this set of words. You could easily alter it to learn other common sight words. For further practice, you can write your sight words on an index card and keep it with your books. Have it with you and when you hear one of the words you’re working on, point it out in the book, as well as on the card. Praise your child regularly and give reward them with hugs and high fives! Your child will be amazed at how much he can learn.
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