Sight words are the work horses of the English language. They're words that appear frequently in print, but words that are either difficult to sound out, or don't follow the rules. New readers need to develop a “bank” of these sight words, so they can read them quickly, without having to pause to figure them out.
Want to give your kid a leg up with sight words? Put the flash cards away and pull out the construction paper! By creating his own book, your kindergartener can make something he'll be proud of, and get ten key sight words under his belt at the same time.
What You Do:
- In this activity, you'll help your child create a book by asking questions, and then using his answers to create what teachers call "sentence frames." A sentence frame is just a sentence with a missing part— a fill-in-the-blank. For this book, you'll create a sentence frame for each page and then help your child fill in the blank with a word from the sight word list.
- When they're coming up with sight words for students, most teachers use a combination of something called the Dolch list (a list of 220 high-frequency words, prepared by E.W. Dolch in 1936) and Fry Instant Words, a more recently created list by E.B. Fry. Some of the words kindergarten teachers use include:
a, am, and, are, away, big, black, blue, boy, brown, can, come, did, do, down, eat, find, for, funny, go, good, green, have, he, help, here, his, I, in, is, it, jump, know, like, little, look, make, me, my, not, on, one, play, pretty, red, run, said, say, see, the, three, to, two, up, was, we, where, white, yellow, you
- For this activity, you'll create a book with ten pages. On each page you'll write a sentence frame centered around one of the words on this list, leaving a blank for your child to fill in the sight word. But since your child is the author of this book (not you!) he'll actually be creating the material for your text, by way of the questions you ask him. For example, if you wanted to use the sight word "I" you might ask your child, "Tell me three things you're good at." And if he told you he was good at soccer, singing, and riding a bike, you would take your first page of construction paper and write something like, "_____ am good at soccer, singing, and riding a bike." Then you'd help your child fill in the blank with the sight word "I".
- Repeat this process for each of the ten pages, using a sight word from the list as inspiration, and then creating a sentence for your child to complete. Giving him a colorful marker to use for the sight word (a different color than the one you use to write the rest of the text) will help it stand out when you read together later.
- After you've finished the text and your child has filled in the blanks, it's time for the illustrations! Give your child the markers, glitter, and photos, and put him to work creating the pictures for his book. Don't forget to make a cover, with the author's name prominently displayed. When it's all finished, bind it with staples or with punched holes and string.
- Stuck on the types of questions to ask, and the type of text to use in the book? Here are ten examples of possible questions, sample kid answers, and the resulting sentence frame.
Sight word: him/her
Question: Who is your best friend and what is one thing you like about them?
Answer: Jake because he plays fireman.
Sentence frame: My best friend is Jake. I like ____ because he loves to play fireman.
Sight word: ate
Question: What is one of your favorite foods?
Sentence frame: Do you want to know why I'm happy? I just ___ a burger.
Sight word: and
Question: What are the names of two of your favorite books?
Answer: Curious George and How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight?
Sentence frame: My favorite books are Curious George ___ How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight?
Sight word: in/on
Question: Would you rather ride in a spaceship or on a magic carpet?
Answer: magic carpet
Sentence frame: Someday, I'd like to ride ___ a magic carpet.
Sight word: the
Question: What's the best thing about kindergarten?
Sentence frame: ____ best thing about kindergarten is story time.
Sight word: brown/black/white/red/green/blue
Question: What's your favorite color?
Sentence frame: My favorite color is _____.
Sight word: know
Question: You're five years old. What do you know how to do?
Answer: tie my shoes, brush my teeth, count to 50
Sentence frame: I ______ how to tie my shoes, brush my teeth, and count to 50.
Sight word: my
Question: Who are the people in your family?
Answer: mom, dad, Susie, and grandma
Sentence frame: The people in ____ family are Mom, Dad, Susie, and Grandma.
Sight word: am
Question: How old are you?
Sentence frame: I ____ five.
Sight word: good
Question: What are you good at?
Answer: legos, dancing, games
Sentence frame: I am ____ at building using LEGOs, dancing, and playing games.
When the book is complete, look at it together, pointing to each word as you read. Eventually, your child can take over the job of tracking the words, as he learns to read the book himself. Be sure to keep it simple and don’t over complicate the sentence frames. The repetition of seeing the sight words in print is what will make it stick. And once he's mastered the sight words, reading other words won't be far behind!
Gina Dal Fuoco has been an elementary school teacher in California for over 12 years, and has also taught English as a foreign language in Italy. Gina is the mother of a toddler and a kindergartener.