Sight Words

In my district Kindergartners were responsible for 20 sight words by the end of the year, although we usually exposed the children to many more.  Out of those 20 words, 10 words were called “never again” words – meaning they would never again be misspelled when the children used them in their writing.  These lists were cumulative, so 1st graders were responsible for our 10, plus their own lists.

Kindergarten curriculum has changed drastically over the years, even though children really have not changed much.  When I first learned that we were expected to hold children accountable for sight words I knew I needed to find a way to help children have fun and be successful.  Of course that meant I needed to use a puppet!

This is Calvin – what I like best about this Folkmanis puppet is that you can put both of your hands into his hands.  That means he can scratch his head, wave or gesture to the kids, hold things and you can even put one of his fingers into his mouth and tip his head down.  It is really fun!

I always tried to incorporate sight words into something we were learning to help the children make meaning and connections.  For instance – I introduced the word “I” at the very beginning of the year when we were working on our “ME” unit.  Next I introduced the word SEE – along with 5 senses.  With those 2 words, and photos of the children they could read simple sentences.  I see Megan.  I see Timmy.  Or you can put a picture of apples, or cats.  Then if you add the sight word “a” they can read “I see a (and you can put a picture of almost anything!)

Calvin would visit our classroom after the children had been exposed to a new sight word and most could recognize it.  He would come to talk about whatever subject we were learning, but he always made mistakes that the children loved to correct.  He would scratch his head and asked how they knew that, or if they were sure he was wrong.  Or hold his hands palm up and say “How do you know?”  Then he would tell them that he knew something he was SURE they didn’t know.  He would reach into his (doll sized) backpack and pull out the sight word.  Right away someone would say what the word was – Calvin was always amazed.

I printed the sight words on construction paper and sent them home, one at a time.  Along with the first word – usually “I,” I also gave each child a container  to keep at home and use to collect these words.  The letter I sent home explaining sight words gave ideas for how parents could use these cards to reinforce learning.  The containers I used were from our school lunches – when kids ordered “grab and go” yogurt, graham crackers, etc. – their lunch came in a clear plastic box that was hinged on one side – similar to fast food hamburger boxes.  You could just send home a 6 x 9 manilla envelope – or anything you can find, but giving them a place to keep the words encourages parents to collect them, not just throw them away!

Here are a few examples of how I ran off the words, it was easy to make a table and write in the words.


At this point in the year I did not have a word wall up, so after Calvin gave out a word I put it into a pocket chart.

Here are our words:

20 kdg sight words

sight and never again words letter

I learned that singing makes learning about anything easier for children.  We sang every sight word as we learned them.  Here are some ideas of tunes that work for most sight words:

One of the first words we sang – and repeatedly sang it all year was for the word “the.”  I used 3 Blind Mice – T – H – E,

T – H – E

That spells THE, that spells THE

Here are a few more songs:

spelling songs

When we were learning a new sight word I used it often, in the morning note I wrote to the children, in our daily work, and we looked for it in books we read.  We also usually made one of these sight word fold up books.  I would copy and fold these for each child, then we would read the phrase together.  I would also give them a sheet of clipart pictures that would complete the short sentence.  At the beginning of the year they just added the clipart picture.  Soon they were ready to phonetically label or fill in the rest of the sentence with their own writing.   After adding the clipart, and labeling if they were ready – each child read their little book to an adult and took it home.

I folded up this paper so each child would have 4 sentences with clipart when they were done.

I would cut this sheet in half, the children would have choices of things to finish their sentences.   Sometimes I gave them pictures with labels at the beginning of the year, before they were ready for phonetic spelling.   As the year progressed the sentences became a little longer, and included some of the words they already knew.

Here are some of the fold up sight word books we made.  This is just a sampling, obviously you could make sentences to include any words you are working on.  I also included a few of the clipart sheets I gave the children.  You could ask them to draw a picture but that changes the focus away from practicing the sight word a bit.   I learned it is very helpful to provide a dotted line around each picture for cutting.

Sight word foldup

Around January I usually put up a more traditional word wall, but I really didn’t want my room to look like First Grade, so I made large alphabet letters and glued logos on them as headers for the word wall.

One of my favorite things to do at the end of the day, when we were waiting for buses was a guessing game.  I would say – “I’m thinking of a word that has 4 letters and it is in the top row of the word wall.”  The kids would guess, sometimes they would give the clues.  It is really important to use a really LARGE font so that all children can read the word wall from all around the classroom.

I also encouraged my parents to play games with the sight words – I would send home 2 sets of about 10 words for them to play Memory.  Sometimes I made a game board similar to the Homework calendars and put a sight word on each space.  By adding seasonal clipart this seemed like a new game every time!

In class the children sometimes used magnetic letters to spell sight words, they used fly swatters to slap the words they found on pocket charts or writing around the classroom.  We had reading pointers (from Dollar stores!) and special reading glasses to look for sight words around the room.  Sometimes we used a yellow marker or highlighter to find sight words in newspapers.  The ideas are endless!

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. dbsenk
    Nov 21, 2010 @ 02:01:18

    A kind reader asked a question that let me know I wasn’t clear about how I use the folded up books to reinforce sight words. Sorry it was confusing. The kids don’t actually make the sight words books – I xerox them and fold them (or have a parent helper fold!) Then I model reading and completing the phrase with the whole group after they have been exposed to the sight word for a few days.

    For example, if I was working on the sight word THE – I would write the words “I see the” on my wipe off board at whole group time. Then I would draw a simple picture like a chair or a house or a flower next to it. I would call on someone to read my “sentence.” Then I would erase the picture I drew and draw another quick sketch – all on the wipe off board.

    After practicing with a few sentences I would show the children the fold up book and the sheet of clipart pictures. I would actually cut out one of the pictures and glue it on one of the pages of the fold up book, and then we would read it together. We would talk about what the clipart pictures were – just to be sure the children recognized them.

    Please let me know if I can explain anything better!


    • Debbie
      Nov 22, 2010 @ 18:47:35

      In what order to you teach the sight words? I teach prek and have been introducing sight words that begin with our letter of the week. I really like the way you introduced I first and then see so the children can begin to read sentences.


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