Saturday, April 18, 2015

Sight Word Fluency

Being new to teaching first grade, teaching sight words is something that was completely foreign to me back in September. I was used to kiddos coming into my class and already knowing most of these common words. Yes, I had a few throughout the years that really needed remediation and interventions, but for the most part they knew sight words. Come to think of it, I wish I had known a little more about sight words back then. One year I had a third grader reading on a level H, and man, what I know now could have definitely helped.

In my school we do a story a week from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Journeys series. Each story introduces a set of vocabulary words that the district considers as sight words our students need to know. I cross referenced them with the Dolch words and most of them are. Score! I pre- and post-test my students with each unit. I don't know about you, but I love pre- and post-testing. There can be anywhere to 40-50 words per unit so it can take a little while to pretest when the kiddos don't know the words yet. In the end, it shows so much growth though and makes me a happy teacher.

Throughout the unit I practice and practice these words with my students. I do whole group teaching each week and remediation in small groups. One of the fun things I sometimes do is lay out cards with the words written on them. I line the cards up on the floor (outside the classroom in the hallway works best) and one student at a time walks beside each card and says the word.
I time how long it takes and graph the results. My students really love the visual of the graph because it helps them see how far they've come. They work really hard to beat their scores. I do have to say that although this is really fun and a great way to practice, it can take a long time, especially in the beginning. It obviously gets faster as the kiddos get better with the words.
Just look at the progress! My rule was that if they got to a minute or below than they mastered the words for the unit. The black line is where we switched to a new set of words.

I suggest doing this with less than 45 words (which I did the first time) or with the assistance of support staff. I have high school students that come to my class about twice a week and they are great helpers with this activity.

They also practice spelling these words during literacy centers. I have a few different activities they can do, but they love matching the letters with magnets most.
Every other day I have an aide that comes into my classroom. I have a hard time keeping track of when she is coming and didn't want to plan something each time. I would have to give her directions each day and take away from teaching, blah, blah, blah. So, to make it easier on myself, and her, I made these fluency books for each reading unit.


I got this idea from a school I used to work at, and it has proven to be fabulous and is a great way to collect data. Each student has a book. My aide calls over one student at a time and he/she reads the words. If the page is read correctly than they get a star for the day. The page has to be read 2/3 times correctly before moving on. The amount depends on the reader. My higher readers are only required to read it 2 times, where as my lower readers need to read it 3 times.


After the words are read, they move on to reading sentences with the words. This is for application purposes. The same rules apply for how many times the page needs to be read before moving on. Not only do the students have to read the words correctly, but they have to read with correct intonation as well. This was hard at first, but they are really starting to get it.



About 1/2 way through the school year, the K-2 teachers sat with the principal and had a discussion about what we all use as sight words. There was no consistency. We decided to all use the Fry words. I found this Alligator App by Innovative Mobile Apps that I downloaded to my iPhone. I love that it is broken into lists. There are 10 words in each list. The speed for transitions can be customized from manual to 10 seconds. I wanted my students to get used to reading words quickly so I have mine set at 2 seconds.


I started all my students at List 1A. Every Monday during literacy centers, I call students over to me, one at a time. They read the words aloud.
If there is a word they get wrong, I write it on a sticky note and we go over the words together at the end. They take the sticky note to their desk and leave it there for the week. Their job is to practice the word/s and master them by next time. During the week I will randomly point to words on students' desks and ask them what it is. I love how this differentiates the words students are working on mastering. When all the words in a list are mastered the student moves to the next list. My kiddos are at all different levels and I love it!

Some of the words are tricky for most of my students. I can tell when I'm writing the same words on most sticky notes. I decided to display the words around the room for everyone to see, and hopefully read to themselves at random times. I happened to have extra hand cutouts from a bulletin board I had, so I used those.
In small groups, I often have students go on word hunts. These can be really fun! They start with their books closed and then I call out a word. They look for the word and mark it somehow. It's like a race. I have pointers, floral stones, or wikki stix for them to use. Sometimes I tell them what we will be using, while other times they have choice. The kiddos get so excited when we do this. I try not to do it every time we review words so that the excitement doesn't wear off.
All of these sight word activities are so fun and engaging for my little learners. I feel like I've gotten a good handle on how to teach sight words and reading fluency. I hope that over time I develop more engaging ways to keep it fresh.

What kinds of fun things do you do to practice sight words and fluency?

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