Reading new words is a challenge for all kindergarten students, but for those with learning problems it can be exceedingly frustrating. A powerful relationship exists between movement and learning, and young students learn best when they can apply physical motions to cognitive exercises. Give struggling readers the reinforcement they need by adding motion, movement and manipulatives to their sight word practice.
Play With Words
When traditional teaching methods cause your kindergartener with learning problems to shut down, alter the way you approach subject material. Instead of saying you are going to practice reading new words, lay out a pile of sight word picture cards and ask, “Which of these words would you like to play with today?” After the student chooses the words, play with instructions such as, “Put the word ‘little’ next to the word ‘big.’ Make a teepee out of the words ‘look’ and ‘good.’ Can you balance the word ‘me’ on your head?”
Sidewalk Chalk Talk
Take to the sidewalk with some chalk and beanbags. Write the alphabet in large letters. Give your struggling reader a few sight word cards that he needs to practice. Have him copy the words from the cards onto the sidewalk. Then have him throw the beanbags at the letters that spell out the sight words. Use the chalk to draw a hopscotch grid on the sidewalk. Inside each square, write one of the sight words. As he hops through the grid, he must read each sight word he hops on.
Spread a struggling student’s desk with shaving cream. Write a sight word on the board in large letters, and as you do so, have the student follow along, writing the word in the shaving cream with her finger. This can also be done with finger paints to create a lasting word picture. After the painting dries, hang it on a wall designated for sight words so it will be available for her to view regularly.
Winning Sight Words
Write sight words on large colorful cards, and store them in a bright and interesting container. This could be a box wrapped in colorful paper, a drawstring bag or even a picnic basket. Give this to your struggling reader and call it his own "word box." At the end of the week, play a game in which he needs to draw the cards from the container. If he can read the card, he can keep it. Encourage him to try to “win” more cards than he did the previous week. Once a month, one of the cards can be cashed in for a prize.
Debbie McCarson is a former English teacher and school business administrator. Her articles have appeared in "School Librarians’ Journal" and "The Encyclopedia of New Jersey." A South Jersey native, she is a regular contributor to "South Jersey MOM" magazine.