As a reading interventionist, I often meet kids that are behind in sight words. One student, Jesse, a first grader, didn’t know her sight words. She was stuck reading low level kindergarten books. At school, she was given a list of 100 words to memorize. She practiced them everyday. Yet, she didn’t retain them. It appeared that she was blind to sight words. I tried to find books to teach her sight words. I was unimpressed. Most sight word books are repetitive and teach kids to guess. In my free printable sight word books I made sure to incorporate:
-text that is not guessable
-fun animal facts to keep kids engaged
-a picture that is for fun (not to help the child guess)
-a few easy sight words like: the, many, they…etc.
-a few harder sight words like: enough, different, through…etc.
Many struggling readers have significant difficulties when learning sight words. In fact, dyslexic students can almost seem blind to them. Jesse, for example, had to review “they” across multiple lessons to retain the word. Struggling readers need systematic exposure (wherein they only learn 2-4 at a time) and books that allow them to practice. In this post, Reading Elephant offers two free printable sight word books.
In addition, Reading Elephant also offers systematic phonics books.
Printable sight word books…one is about lizards!
The first is a nonfiction book about lizards. Kids can learn fun facts, like how some lizards can walk on water, while learning new sight words. Jesse, like many kids, loved learning about animals. She was willing to reread nonfiction animal books because she wanted to memorize animal facts. Thus, I created some fun nonfiction animal books that help kids learn sight words. Click the following link for the first of the free printable sight word books:
In the above book, kids can practice the following sight words: from, some, are, other, they, two, your, great, most, very, have, through, many, their, water, where, do.
Does your student like lizards? If so, you can have fun quizzing them about sight words and lizards. This coupling can help kids cope with the boredom of rote memorization. Here are some fun animal facts and sight words to learn in the above story:
Question: How big are some lizards?
Answer: Lizards can be as big as two men (like Komodo dragons) or as small as the tip of your nose (like the Jaragua lizard).
Question: Why can some lizards push through water to swim?
Answer: They have strong tails.
Question: Where can lizards climb and why?
Answer: Lizards can climb on walls and trees. They have hairs on their feet that stick to things.
Next, your student can learn sight words and read about camels.
Printable sight word books…and the other is about camels!
A lack of sight word knowledge can leave a child stuck on low level books. To accelerate a struggling readers progress, expose her to sight words. In the following book, kids can learn sight words and fun facts about camels, like how they have thick lips that can tolerate the spikes on desert plants. Click the following link for the other of the free printable sight word books:
In the above book, kids can practice the following sight words: have, one, two, their, are, of, the, they, from, eyes, many, to, different, very, walk, sometimes, enough, water, does, another, would, you.
Again, to make memorizing sight words a bit more tolerable, you can quiz your student on fun camel facts at the same time. Write questions like the following on your board. Read the sentences out loud on your own. Then, pause at sight words. Have your student help you read the sight words:
Question: How many humps can a camel have?
Answer: Camels can have one or two humps.
Question: Why do they have many sets of eyelashes?
Answer: Camels have many sets of eyelashes to help shield their eyes from the sun.
Question: Why do camels have thick lips?
Answer: Camels have thick lips so they can eat many different plants in the desert like cacti.
What are sight words?
Sight words break the phonetic code. They are words that deviate from the regularities in English. For example, “they” is a sight word. If “they” were spelled phonetically, we would write “thay.” Also, “would” is a sight word. If “would” were spelled phonetically, we’d write “wood.”
There are many sight words in English. In K-1, kids should memorize about 100-120 sight words. They should NOT memorize these words all at once. Rather, kids should learn sight words systematically, or a handful at a time. Reading Elephant recommends teaching 2-4 new sight words at a time. In the above free printable sight words books, kids can practice some of the most common sight words.
Free printable sight word books
In the above free printable sight word books, there’s a student and teacher version. The teacher version has a list of sight words in each story. In addition, all of the sight words are underlined. That way, you as the teacher know how to cue the student. On sight words, don’t encourage sound-by-sound reading. On all other words, encourage sound-by-sound reading.
How to correct your student
When your student makes an error on a sight word, simply give her the word. It’s that simple. Since sight words break the phonetic code, these words cannot be read sound-by-sound.
Sight words are common. However, there are only about 100-120 sight words worth memorizing. Sight words like should, have, could, they…etc. are everywhere. They’re sprinkled throughout our written language, but there really aren’t many of them… consider that there are 100-120 sight words worth memorizing and over a quarter of a million words in English. Sight words are generally descended from Old English. Over time, we’ve changed their pronunciation. Our spelling system does not keep up with sound changes. Thus, sight words are a relic of history.
There are a few tricks you can use
Even sight words contain phonics. There are always a few sounds in sight words that are regular. Usually, the first and last sound can help the student unlock the word. For example, in “would” the /w/ and /d/ are regular. Tell the student it’s a sight word. Next, highlight the beginning and ending sounds. Give the student another try. If she still makes a mistake, simply give her the word…you don’t want to encourage guessing!
Instead, encourage methodical reading strategies. After the child 1) knows it’s a sight word, 2) sees the phonetic aspect of the sight word, then you can simply give her the word. Let the student move on with the story. Make a note of the word she missed.
Make notes of the missed sight words
Write down the sight words your student struggles with. Incorporate them in later instruction. Introduce each missed sight word in a sentence. Read the sentence aloud. Put the new sight word on a flashcard. Then, incorporate the sight word into reading and spelling activities.
I hope your student enjoys learning sight words and lizard/camel facts!
If you like the free printable sight word books in this post, please let me know in a comment below or an email. Thank you for reading!
Reading Elephant offers a printable phonics books library for struggling readers.