Sight words break the phonetic code in some way. For example, while the “wh” in “where” is phonetic, the “ere” component isn’t. Students need to learn the 100 most common sight words by the end of first grade. That’s a lot of sight words. How are you to know which ones to prioritize?
In the attached printable, I selected some of the most common and most challenging sight words. Here is the Valentines-themed sight word coloring activity:
When teaching sight words, start with the most common. In the attached sight word activities for first grade, I’ve used sight words that occur frequently in early readers. These sight words can help students read books and eventually transition from away phonics books. The sight words in the attached Valentine’s Day coloring activity includes some of the hardest sight words as well.
Sight word activities for first grade often include easy words. That’s why I included some of the hardest for the attached activity. Kids often struggle with “thought” and “through” and they also struggle to differentiate “where” and “were.”
Sight words and spelling
Since sight words are common, have your student practice spelling them. Be sure to let her know when she’s spelling sight words and that sound-by-sound writing won’t work.
In the free activity, have your student say and read each sight word out-loud and then color in the heart. For additional practice, you can have her write sentences with the sight words. Here are some sample sentences your first grader can write:
Where is the cake?
They were at the beach.
Can I have some candy?
There were a lot of people at the zoo.
Can I have another treat?
The water in the lake was clear.
In order to write the above sentences, your student must know long vowels like silent e and “ea.” Reading Elephant will offer a systematic long vowel book series soon. However, if your student hasn’t had exposure to long vowels, you can have her write the following sentences instead:
Where is the frog?
They were at the gift shop.
Can I have a fig?
There were a lot of people at the pond.
Can I have another snack?
Mom had a cup of water.
My student doesn’t know a lot of sight words
What if your student hasn’t done many sight word activities for first grade? If this is the case, let her color and read the words with your help. Next, introduce the words in the coloring activity and provide sample sentences. Have her practice reading and spelling them out-loud.
Space out practice. For example, have her study the sight words Monday, Wednesday and Friday over a period of 4-8 weeks. Don’t take out words from review once a child recognizes it—kids need multiple exposures across a broad range of time even after they’ve learned to recognize their sight words. Many kids are at risk of forgetting sight words, because constant review isn’t woven into instruction.
When a student doesn’t know sight words
Jesse didn’t know all of her sight words at the beginning of second grade. She hadn’t done many sight word activities for first grade. Thus, she was stuck on low-level books. Other kids in her class were easily reading sight readers (unsystematic books with a wide variety of word types).
In contrast, Jesse was still struggling when she read, “Mike thought he could ride a bike.” Jesse hadn’t learned all of her sight words. Since sight words are common, reading was an arduous, intimidating task for her. She avoided books. She feared reading out-loud in class.
After systematic sight word instruction, Jesse was finally able to catch up with her peers.
How do students learn sight words?
Sight word acquisition begins in Kindergarten. Ideally, kids learn a handful of words at a time, review them constantly, and slowly learn more. In first grade, kids begin to acquire sight words more rapidly. Again, they review old sight words constantly and do many sight word activities for first grade.
Lastly, I just want to point out that some kids simply will NOT learn sight words until they’ve mastered phonics. That’s okay! Give these kids time. Start slowly and introduce about 2 words at a time. Focus most of the lesson on systematic phonics instruction.
If you want another sight word activity, check out: Sight Word Sunflower Field.
Reading Elephant offers systematic phonics books with fun, silly pictures.