Okay, to be fully transparent I have this gut feeling I’m giving away a teacher secret… BUT I think it’s just there because I’ve spent so much time in the teacher world, and now I’m in a different world. I’m now in the world where I get to do things the way that makes the most sense to me, and why wouldn’t I want to share with parents how to talk about sight words with their kids?
First up: what are sight words?
Sight words are words we identify by sight, not by sounding out. Some people refer to them as “snap words” to encourage the quick memorization. Examples of kindergarten sight words:
I, am, me, the, and, so. They’re the words that don’t follow the typical patterns and “rules” of the English language.
How are sight words learned?
Sight words are memorized, so most people turn to flashcards because that’s how they remember memorizing things. Flashcards aren’t bad, but using them only one way isn’t very effective. Here’s how to use them to really make an impact: use the flashcards to create meaning around a word. Write it in a sentence. Use colors on the flashcard to give the letters context, to show which letters go together to make certain sounds, draw pictures on the card to put the word and letters into meaning. When the word is used in a sentence, the letters and sounds are interacted with, this creates meaning and gives your child’s brain something to connect it to. This creates meaning for the sight word and allows your child’s brain to connect it to something in their head.
PS want to see this in action? Click here and you can get my 2 min video explaining how to do this.
Why not just drill & kill like when you were young?
A few reasons:
- I’m not really a fan of the phrase “know better, do better” because I feel it can be condescending… but this is an instance of us knowing better and being able to do better (just please remove any condescending tone!).
- It’s WAY MORE FUN to use picture cards or stuffed animals, cars, toys, people, play-doh etc. than to simply use flashcards.
When you learn someone’s name, how often does it go in one ear and out the other? Probably more often than you’d like to admit. When you make a real, concerted effort to remember someone’s name, you’re more likely to remember it. How do you do this? You probably connect their name to where you met them, what time of day it was, what the weather was that day, who else was there, how you know them/met them, and you might have thought of something else that starts with the same letter as their name. Think of (my version of) flashcards like that – when you create the meaning and surround the word with images and connections it’s much easier to remember.
Here’s my one caveat to the “don’t drill with them”
Once your child is strong with their sight words, use the flashcards as a warm up before moving into something else. Warm up their brains with the flashcards they’ve mastered. Practicing these word cards now means they are likely saying the word with the context in mind rather than guessing each time. Starting off with something they know and have confidence in sets a good tone for learning or trying new things.
Okay mama, you’re ready to give it a go! Remember to tag me on Instagram when you give this a try. I’m @kinderwithmackenzie and I can’t wait to see!
P.S. Did you like this and are looking for more? Hop on my reading bootcamp waitlist here (BTW there are only FIVE spots in this!)