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Teaching Sight Words in Context - Moving Beyond Flashcards


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Sight words (also known as high-frequency words) are words good readers must instantly recognize. These “workhorse" words make up about 50 to 75 percent of the words children encounter in early reading materials. By the time children begin reading, most common sight words are already in their speaking and listening vocabularies. The goal is to help readers recognize these words in print. Sight word flashcards are a common teaching tool. But, do you notice your students becoming flashcard experts and still stumbling over those same words when they encounter them in text? Here are three easy ways to step-up your sight word program and create some sentence-building fun!

1. Create Sight Word Sentence Frames

Give students opportunities to read sight words in context by creating sight word sentence frames. For example, write each of the following seven sight words on a small card: give, me, that, to, put, on, my. Then place the cards in order to create this sentence frame:

Give me that _ to put on my _.

Invite students to fill in the blanks with ideas that make sense. For example, “Give me that mitten to put on my hand. " or “Give me that hat to put on my head. " By creating a variety of sentences, students will be rereading the same seven sight words many times to build fluency.

2. Introduce New Vocabulary to Complete Sentence Frames

Layer your reading instruction by combining sight word practice with vocabulary development. Use pictures to introduce new words students can use to complete sentence frames. For example, create a picture card to introduce the word saddle. Write the word below the picture. Create another card for the word horse. Then, invite students to use these vocabulary words (supported by picture clues) to build the sentence: “Give me that saddle to put on my horse.

3. Encourage Students to Use Active Comprehension Strategies

Comprehension is the reason for reading. Give students a variety of vocabulary picture cards to make choices for completing each sentence frame. Challenge students to use active comprehension strategies to make sense of what they read. If a student builds the sentence, “Give me that mitten to put on my foot. " ask him or her if the sentence makes sense and to explain why or why not. Of course, students can have fun building silly sentences too as long as they know the difference!

Don't limit your sight word instruction to flashcards and Bingo games. Layer sight word instruction with vocabulary development and comprehension strategies by teaching sight words in context. Your students will enjoy the sentence-building fun!

Sight Word Sentence Frames (Levels 1 and 2) published by Teach Bright provides ready-to-use photo and word cards to build hundreds of sight word sentences. The resources provide over 140 Dolch sight word cards and 400 vocabulary word cards (supported by colorful photographs). For more information, visit


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