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Ideas for Working with Tricky Sight Words

Some students really have a tough time remembering particular sight words. Whether reading in context, or alone, some words just don’t stick with them. The more opportunities readers have to see those words, the more likely they will eventually remember them. I always want readers to be able to successfully read, write and find sight words. When focusing on all three of these things, you can narrow down what is most difficult about certain words for the reader. Typically, once they’ve mastered finding the word, they can then read it and eventually write it with no errors, too. Since sight words are present everywhere, it’s important to try new activities with your readers to help them add more to their “I know these!” pile. Here are a few ideas to try out with your readers!

Word Reading, Matching and Sorting:
This activity is helpful when you notice a reader missing the same words repeatedly. Using two sets of cards (most of the words will repeat, with a few extra thrown in), have readers read both sets of words. Having one set on sticky notes is helpful because they’ll be sticking the words on top of the matching one. So, readers will read the flashcard set of words first, laying one out at a time. Then readers will read the sticky note version of each word, placing it directly on top of the matching flashcard. Next step, if it works out based on the words needing to be practiced, is to sort the words into categories. The words should again be read aloud before placing them under the correct category. There may be a few words which don’t fit in either category, which is fine, just have readers identify a new category that would make sense for those words. Before returning the words to the container, have the reader read the words one more time.

*This container/baggie of words would be great to keep at the reader’s desk to refer back to for extra practice whenever there is a free minute!

*As an extra step, you could have readers actually write the matching words on the sticky notes and come up with the category headers. This is a great way to get them practicing writing the words too- another crucial step!

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I also made a real short video to show you how to actually do this, if you like a more visual example!

What’s Your Word?
I find that when you write a few words down for a reader, it helps them focus on the word that is directly in front of them, on their card. If you notice that a reader keeps mistaking ‘this’, for example, for the word ‘those’, choose 2-3 words (one being the correct one) and write them down in front of the student. Then read those words to the student and ask them which one is actually in front of them on their card. This helps them recognize that they’re mixing up the word with others, encouraging them to focus only on the letters on their card.

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I love a good app that can be used in a number of ways! For all of these apps, you can simply have readers write the word you state and then read it back to you. It helps to have readers say each letter in the word and then state the word, too. The more they hear themselves spelling the word, the more likely they are to remember it later on. I like to have readers write a few down in a row before erasing so they can go back and show they know each word even while multiple words are written. I’ve always only used the free versions of each of these apps, all linked below!

This Sand Draw app was recently introduced to me and it is super fun for readers. Students can practice dictation of sight words on “the beach” by writing the words in the sand. Then, as seen in the 2nd image, the wave button can be clicked to wash away the words. It’s actually a very soothing app at the same time with the sound of the wave! Especially during the colder months, who doesn’t want to pretend they’re on the beach while working on sight words!? My only drawback for this app is that it frequently has a drawing option pop up, so after a few slides of words being done, it prompts the student to draw a picture of something in particular. It’s not terrible, but when you don’t have a ton of extra time, it does take away from making more sight words- but you can also quickly exit out of the drawing option, once it pops up.

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These oldie by goodie apps still remain to be great ones! I began using these exact apps with my guided reading groups probably about 8 years ago- and they still are perfect for working on words. Magic Doodle is engaging for readers because of the neon colors jumping out at you as you write.
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The ABC Magnetic Alphabet Lite App has always been at the top of my list for favorite apps. With the magnetic letters all accessible at the bottom, readers can quickly grab letters needed for each word they’re making. This is especially helpful for readers who struggle with letter formation or remembering which letter comes next in a word. Sometimes, just seeing the letter options in front of them triggers their memory for each letter in a word.

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Happy Reading!
Aylin Claahsen

Aylin Claahsen

Providing resources and support to engage all readers.

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Hi, I'm Aylin!

I’m so happy you’re here! I’m a certified reading specialist who loves talking all things literacy. I have a huge passion for providing resources and support to engage all readers!


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