Monday, October 15, 2012

Growing Readers: Kindergarten Sight Words and Early Reading Skills

You can teach your Kindergarten student to read without buying a lot of expensive books and curriculum, and without sitting down doing boring worksheet pages. This article will show you some easy, inexpensive, interactive ways to engage your child in reading using hands on activities. These activities will fit right into Workboxes if you use them!

The suggestions here are based on the Balanced Literacy approach to teaching reading and writing, described in more detail at Growing Readers: Sight Words or Phonics? How about a balanced approach.

Most Kindergarten aged children are what we call "emergent readers". Your child should be able to identify most of the letters of the alphabet, capital and lower case (they do not need to know them all, about 2/3 is fine). They should also know at least half of the letter sounds. is a great, free resource, for learning the letters and letter sounds. If they know those things and are of Kindergarten age then are ready to learn these emergent reader skills (Think your preschool aged child is ready? Read this first):
  • 1 to 1 correspondence
  • Directional movement
  • An introduction of sight words
  • Using initial letter
The information in this article outlines what your Kindergartener needs to learn by the end of the school year. This is not to be taught in a few weeks, but over the course of the year.

These lessons will teach the following Common Core State Standards for Kindergarten:


Print Concepts
1. Demonstrate understanding of the organization and basic features of print.
a. Follow words from left to right, top to bottom, and page by page.
b. Recognize that spoken words are represented in written languageby specific sequences of letters.
c. Understand that words are separated by spaces in print 
Phonics and Word Recognition
3. Know and apply grade-level phonics and word analysis skills in decoding words both in isolation and in text.
c. Read common high-frequency words by sight (e.g., the, of, to, you, she, my, is, are, do, does).
Sight words are words that readers need to be able to read on “sight”.  These are the words seen most frequently when we read.  They are often called high frequency words, or frequency words. Your child needs to learn to read these words quickly, without stopping to sound them out.
This is a complete systematic introduction of 40 of the first high frequency or sight words for early readers:  

This sight word program consists of 8 lists with 5 words on each list.  Write or print the words on individual cards. Beginning with list number one, the child is expected to memorize to read and write the five words on the list.  You can use these lists for your Kindergarten spelling program. When they can do that successfully, then they move onto list number 2.  By the end of the program they will know 40 sight words.

The idea with this program is to teach your young child reading without sitting at a desk, or using a workbook. You want your child moving and engaged in hands on learning. You don't need to do every activity with every word or list. Find what works best for you and your child. Do a variety of activities to keep them interested. Here are some activities you can do with the sight words for practice:
My Pile Your Pile:  Mix up the cards and hold them in your hand so that your child can’t see them.  Take the cards out one at a time.  If your child can read the word quickly, then they get the card in their pile.  If they can’t read it quickly them you read the word and get to keep the card in your pile.  See who got the most cards in their pile!
Sorting Words:  Sort the flash cards in different ways.  For example, sort them by the number of letters in them, by alphabetical order or by different vowel sounds.
BOOM: Flash card practice can get really old after awhile, so we play the boom game.  I put four or five boom cards in our sight word stack.  When I show a card with BOOM on it, they yell BOOM!  It holds their attention much better because they are anticipating the BOOM!
Word Puzzles: Give your child the letters to make a word, mix them up and ask your child to make the word. You can write the word on card stock and cut  the letters apart. You can use magnetic letters on a magnet board, letter tiles, whatever you like. When your child builds the word make sure they build it from left to right. If they are building the word "the" they MUST put the "T" in place first, followed by the "H" and then the "E". This helps to reinforce moving left to right across a word.
Word puzzle for "the"

Start with the first letter.

Next find the next letter.

Now find the last letter.

Check your work. Read the word you made.

Stamp the Words: Using alphabet rubber stamps have your child stamp out each word.
Practice Sight words using the Read! Build! Write! mats.

Sight Word Parking Lot
Word Clothes Line: Your child can clip letter cards to a line to build sight words.
Purchase sight word manipulatives: There are lots of great sight word and sentence building activities available to purchase. Keep in mind that your child will be able to use these for a few years. As their skills grow they can do more complex sentences and stories with the magnets or tiles. Most are under $20.
Magnetic sentence builder

Word Tiles

Word Wall: Find a place on the wall where you can list words that your child can read and write. As your child learns a new word, add it to the list. Don't forget to add other words they know like their name. You can list them under an existing alphabet banner. You can purchase versions as well for around $10-$20 (or google word wall images and find something you want to re-create!)
Word Wall

Writing:  Have your child practice writing the words. Use a variety of mediums like pencil and paper, dry erase, chalk board, or sidewalk chalk. a cup of water and a wet paint brush works great outside. Use your imagination and get way from the desk. You can practice correct letter formation at the same time.

More Resources:

Reading the Alphabet is an amazing FREE program!

You Can Read!  From 1+1+1=1
A sight word program with lots of free printables available.

Word Play has links to lots of ideas  Visit 1+1+1=1 to see more word play ideas!
Word Play 125 Square

More multi-sensory ideas for teaching sight words at Make, Take, and Teach:

How do I start?
You can start by making your own word lists by copying them by hand  or typing them onto the computer. You can write them on blank 3 X 5 index cards. You can purchase sight word or high frequency word flash cards in many places. You can also download the classroom pack I created here: Kindergarten Sight Words Classroom Pack

An updated version is available here: 

Next you will be ready for Kindergarten Sight Word Sentences.

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