Early reading skills generally fall into two categories -- decoding and sight word memorization. Decoding requires children to use their understanding of letters and sounds to blend sounds together to make words. Sight words are words that children learn to recognize and read on sight. Many of these words cannot be sounded out easily because the letter sounds in the word are irregular or governed by complicated spelling rules. Teachers often use games and activities to help children memorize sight words.
A common way for students to practice reading and writing sight words is through a classroom word wall. A word wall is an alphabetical listing of sight words hung in a prominent place in the classroom. At the beginning of the first grade school year, the word wall will typically have kindergarten level sight words on it as well as the names of the students and the teacher. As the year goes on, the teacher adds new words to the wall as they are taught in the classroom. Students are held accountable for recognizing word-wall words on sight and using the word wall as a spelling guide for independent writing. This activity can also be used at home to reinforce the classroom learning.
Rather like personal miniature word walls, word rings are formed by threading pre-made or laminated sight word cards onto large binder or key rings. Once a student has demonstrated the ability to recognize a particular word, she is given her own card to add to her personal collection. Teachers frequently use these word rings in reading and spelling activities. Students can also use the cards on their word rings as flash cards when playing games with each other or during independent practice. The word rings can be attached to the students' backpacks for safe travel between home and school.
Sight Word Bingo
Sight word bingo is similar to regular bingo except the numbers on the bingo cards are replaced with words. Students can play as a class or in small groups with either the teacher or another student acting as the bingo caller. To begin, the bingo caller flashes a card at the group for just a few seconds, and students have permission to call out the word as soon as they can read it. The bingo caller then hides the word while students check their boards to see if they can find it. This game can be played with handmade cards, computer printed cards or store-bought sets.
Sight word memory is an easy game for first graders to learn and a challenging one for them to play. The difficulty level of this game can be changed quickly by altering the number of cards in a deck or the words on the cards. A simple game might consist of sixteen cards, turned face-down on a table. Two children take turns flipping over a card and reading the word aloud and then repeating the process with another card in an attempt to make a match. Once all of the cards have been matched, the child with the most cards wins and gets to go first in the next round. Make the game more challenging by increasing the number of cards and stocking the deck with sight words that look and sound similar.