How to Start Teaching Sight Words - Elementary Education

How to Start Teaching Sight Words

Teaching Sight Words: Where to Start

It’s no secret that teaching sight words is one of the most crucial skills you can equip students with as they learn in your classroom. It’s also no secret that teaching sight words will look very different based on what curriculum you use, where you teach, and who you teach.

Nevertheless, I thought I’d share how we do sight word instruction in our temporary homeschool situation.

Two Things to Note About Sight Word Instruction

  1. This is very similar to how I taught sight words in a general education 1st grade classroom, so all ideas can easily be transferred to a traditional classroom setting.

  1. I am a huge proponent of doing as little prep as possible. Every single activity we do can be placed either in a binder or a set of drawers at the beginning of the year and done with the same deck of word cards all year long.

Supplies You Will Need For Sight Word Instruction

In my opinion, sight word supplies are some of the most minimalist, flexible materials you can ask for in an elementary classroom. If you are just starting out teaching sight words, I recommend having the following to start:

  • Word wall materials (card stock–preferably white and black, magnets or tape, and header images for Aa, Bb, etc.)
  • Binder rings to hold together student sight word rings
  • Colorful markers or stickers to color-code words
  • Literacy manipulatives (letter tiles, magnetic letters, highlighter tape, etc.–see the full list here.
  • Large board (whiteboard, dry erase, or magnetic for whole-class instruction)
  • A list of words! Your school will usually provide you with their preferred version, but some commonly-used ones include Fry’s and Dolch.

Okay, but how do you actually teach the sight words?

Sight words can be taught through explicit instruction (specifically, in small groups, whole-class settings, and reinforced during independent activities) and in more subtle ways like the classroom environment through use of labels and signs.

Here’s a quick look at my weekly sight word instruction schedule. Keep in mind this is the same one I used in Kindergarten and 1st grade, and can be easily adjusted to fit different needs:

  • Monday: Introduce 1-3 new words (whole-class vs. small group decision will vary here depending on your personal situation)
  • Tuesday: Sight word books + stations
  • Wednesday: Sight word interactive books + stations
  • Thursday: Icon reading + stations
  • Friday: Quick check, Minute to Win It, and whole-class game

I’ve created a blog series and a sight word start toolkit that contains everything I reference in these blog posts:

Organizing Your Sight Word Materials

Day 1: Introducing New Sight Words

Day 2: Learning Sight Words With Books

Day 3: Learning Sight Words With Stations

Day 4: Icon Reading for Young Students

Day 5: Sight Word Assessment + Motivation

20 Free Sight Word Activities That Work With Any Word List


You’ll also want to check out my blog series about word walls here:

I Tried a Digital Word Wall and Here’s What Happened

One Word Wall, 3 Ways: Which One Works Best For You?

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