How to Teach Your Struggling Reader Those Pesky Sight Words

Learning Sight Words, Part 1

How To Teach Your Child Sight Words to Get Her on the Road to Reading

Small girl is confused because she doesn't know sight words yet.

There are of non-painful ways to get those sight words under your kid’s belt, so stop worrying if you’re feeling pressure from school! Reassure your child that this is something you can do together and that it will not be hard. If she believes that, it’s much more likely to be true.

A little bit of time and effort will go a long way, and you and your child will enjoy the quality time spent together too.

Today’s tip involves practicing the words by writing them. Sounds pretty dull, huh? Nope—it doesn’t have to be!

Let’s say the word you need is…is.

The reason why sight words are hard for some kids

‘Is’ is a sight word, and not necessarily an easy one, because actually the s sounds like z. This can really confuse a child! The best way I’ve found to explain it is to tell the truth:

Spread shaving cream on a cookie sheet. Be sure to tell her the letter sounds as you write them.  For example:

A happy little boy skips and waves.“I’m drawing an i: a short top-to bottom line here, and now I lift my finger up and put a little dot right above it—like this! It sounds like this: ih.” Let her draw and say the sound as many times as she wishes, then move on and show the s.  

“The s looks like a snake, curled here (show the first curve) and again here (show second curve). It sounds like this: ssss. Again, let her play with it.

Then say (in your own words and style, of course!):

“Now, we don’t really say isssss…we say izzzz. Do you know why? There is no reason! It just does. It looks like issss but sounds like izzzz. Isn’t that crazy? But let’s remember it anyway. I want to see if you can remember this one tomorrow!

“When I write them both next to each other like this, the ih first, then the sss (print is), it says the word ‘is.’ Like in, “Abby is cold, or Abby is 6, or Abby is writing the word is right now!” See if she can say something using the word is too.

Giving examples like this shows her the correlation between what you two are drawing in the shaving cream, and the word you use in speaking. That’s important. It lays the groundwork for relating letters to sounds, and words to speech.

I start with the shortest words possible, like is and he and so on. Printing doesn’t seem nearly so arduous when it’s not done in a setting of instruction, correction,  and painful pencil holding.

The shaving cream is usually a big turn-on and they’ll practice their words again and again.

Enjoy working—excuse me—playing with sight words at home!

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