FF Mrs. Kinder-hearted : How to Increase Sight-Word Fluency in the Primary Classroom

Friday, December 30, 2016

How to Increase Sight-Word Fluency in the Primary Classroom

Many, many people have benefited from my "How to Increase Letter/Sound Fluency" piece that I posted almost two years ago. This was a simple strategy I used, but had no idea others didn't have access to. Now, I'm going to share some ideas I have used to reach the same level of fluency with Sight-Words. This is how I teach sight-word fluency in my classroom and for the past three-years, I’ve found much success with it. I use a combination of kinesthetic movement with phrases and the RAINBOW sight-word system to ensure my students are learning those infamous high-frequency words.

Sight-Word Motions

You may have noticed from my other posts that I am a very kinesthetic person. I like to move and I love to keep my Kinder-babies moving too. It helps them retain knowledge. I know there are tons of research behind this idea, but I don’t need any of it to recognize how effective learning through movement can be. That is why you’ll see that I have motions (mostly self-created, some borrowed from who-knows-where) for everything I teach. Sight-words included.

After realizing how helpful and effective it was to add motions to my letters/sounds I quickly applied the same strategy to my sight-word routine. When I say quickly, I mean that I introduced it mid-year. I’m always concerned about introducing new things after my students already have a routine down, but when I get great ideas, I always take the risk.

The idea behind sight-word motions (from my experience) is that you tie in a motion  that corresponds with a word. When students see that word, they may not recall the actual word itself, but their little bodies (most-of-the-time) can recall the movement that goes with the word. I witness my students recall these motions every-day. It is a natural occurrence.

Sight-Word Phrases

 I not only have motions for words, I also include phrases. I found that the phrase also scaffolds students to recall the word. It seems like a lot, but I pinky promise that it is a tool, not just extra stuff to remember. Sometimes I find that students will look at the word, recall the motion but still can’t get to the correct word without that phrase.  I promise, you’ll see it too when you use this strategy.

See it in action!

In case you are curious (like I always am) of how strategies actually look in the classroom, I had Ms. Kathy film our daily sight-word practice. I take five-minutes to review the color words we are working on every day. At the end of the week, I take an extra ten-minutes to review all former words. My classroom (at the time of this post) is currently on the BLUE list of words. (See more about this below.)

Rainbow Words

A saving grace in my classroom has been a Rainbow Word system that I created. As I mention in the video below, I found the idea on Pinterest. I bet you’ve seen it too. It truly works. If you are thinking about implementing it (even right now, mid-school year), I say GO FOR IT! You will NOT regret it! I implemented it in January my first year teaching and it truly helped motivate my kids.

You don't have to purchase my file! You can definitely create your own system, but I’m compelled to share with you something I’ve worked so hard on the last few weeks. For three years now, I’ve used a PowerPoint file that I created to create my Rainbow Words resources. It takes me hours every year to distribute my word lists through that file and to each resource. Thankfully, I just learned how to create a file that allows me to type my words in one time to appear throughout all the other parts. I AM SO EXCITED! TYPING WITH ALL CAPS AND IN BOLD TEXT DOES NOT EVEN BEGIN TO EXPRESS MY HAPPINESS! 

In case you’re new to the idea of Rainbow Words, it is a strategy in which you use colored cards to motivate students to learn their sight words. Each color represents a number of words. (For my system, there are 12 Red, 12 Orange, 12 Yellow, 12 Green, 12 Blue, 16 Purple and 16 Pink. 92-words total.) When a student masters a set of cards, the red for example, they go on to the next set. When my kids reach the top of the Rainbow, they get a certificate and set of Rainbow glasses.

As you can probably imagine, students are super-motivated to learn all their words. Some teachers don’t like data walls (and I understand why), but my district requires them and I find this particular system to be very kid-friendly in Kindergarten. Students are only in competition with the Rainbow itself, not other students.

Easy Assessment, Easy Feedback for Families.

A key advantage to my creation is that it makes assessment time simple and time-efficient. I barely get time to pee at school, so I’m always sure to use my time efficiently. My Rainbow Words Assessment Binder makes this happen.

Inside, I have a master checklist and a tab divider for each kiddo.

In each child's tab, I have their Assessment Log pages.. 

I also keep my Teacher feedback pages and rainbow cards close by for when I’m ready to assess.

I flash the cards, insert the data and complete the appropriate feedback page (pass or fail). I add the next set of cards if that student passed that day. I also allow students to place their picture up to that stripe (if they passed red, they go on the red stripe.) Repeat 26 more times (I have a big class!) and BAM! I’m done. 

Rainbow Display 

This is one of my favorite parts of my colorful classroom. I can also see the satisfaction in the eyes of my Kinder-kids when they get to move their picture up a stripe.

Here are some instructions in case you want to create this in your own classroom. 

Video Demonstration

Sight Word Tips

Here are some things I’ve learned (mostly the difficult way through trial and error) about teaching sight-words. I hope these save you some time and trouble.

-Introduce a few at a time. Don’t overwhelm your class!
-Avoid introducing similar words during the same week. (Like eat and ate.)
-Keep parents informed and use them to practice! (I send home a practice log as homework.)
-Review often. Even your brightest kids can forget words they once knew if they don’t practice them.
-They are still babies! Don’t overwhelm your class with too many words. I knew a Teacher in another district that required her Kindergarten class to know 150 words in order to pass on to First grade. This may work for some, but I personally feel this puts too much pressure on our little ones who aren’t developmentally ready for it.  I do cover 92 words in the school year, but I only require my students to master 80% of those by the end of the year.
-Have students with special learning needs? You can accommodate them by shortening word lists. I have adapted my percentage scores to help my special learners to feel successful. One of my students is only required to recognize 6 of the 12 Red words in order to pass. Same for other colors.
-Make it fun! Use songs, dances, motions OR WHATEVER you need to use to keep them engaged. YouTube has so many free resources available to you!

I hope you've found something helpful here today. That is my main goal of this post and all others. 

God bless you and your little ones! 

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