Sight Words (page 2)

By — Pearson Allyn Bacon Prentice Hall
Updated on Jul 20, 2010

Games can also help children learn to recognize common words quickly. During literacy choice time, Ms. Montoya’s students frequently choose the fishing game she made for them. This game involves fishing for paper fish that have a word from a favorite book written on them. Each fish has a paper clip where its mouth should be, and the fishing poles (pointers with string tied to them) each have a magnet at the end of the line. When Tenzin hooks a fish, he can’t keep it unless he can read the word. If he has trouble landing his fish, his fishing buddies can give him clues. A clue can be a reminder of what story the word was in, the meaning of the word, or another word that rhymes with the word. The active and interactive nature of this game is an important part of its success.

When, to the children’s dismay, many words look so much alike, games are useful. All those words that start with wh (what, where, when, why, and who) and those other ones that start with th (then, there, they, those, and them) can slow reading progress and disrupt fluency. The children have learned these words in a meaningful context, but now they need to develop quick, rote memory to distinguish among them. Because these words so often appear in context, Mrs. Thomas is willing for children to practice with them as isolated words. She has created a type of lotto game for practicing quick identification of these words. Sometimes an older reading buddy visits the first-grade classroom during language arts center time and plays this game with the first graders who are confusing those abstract wh and th words. Many children choose this game during literacy center time.

One isolated word does have meaning, and children learn it by itself. That word is the child’s name, and it is generally the first sight word a child learns. Most children also quickly learn to read the names of other children in their classroom if name labels are used frequently for attendance, chore assignments, and identification of work and possessions. Activities using children’s names provide a natural way to increase phonemic awareness (Kirk & Clark, 2005). Learning names provides a store of knowledge for comparisons with new words encountered. For instance, when Nathan dictates a story about his beach trip, he can be helped to notice that shell begins like his friend Shawn’s name. This contributes both to recognizing a new sight word and to an understanding of the nature of graphophonemic systems.

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