When I first started teaching first graders one of my most commonly asked questions by their parents was how to help their child at home. My answer was always to practice sight words and read books.
A great way to encourage this is to host a sight word parent night and I will show you how. I promise it does not take a lot of effort or planning! Best of all, it looks super impressive to your administration and to your families.
Before diving in, ask your admin first if it's okay to host the evening and pick a day and time to get it on the school calendar if necessary.
#1 - Decide which sight word activities you will use
First, decide which sight word activities you would like to present to parents during the sight word event. Choose a variety of favorite word work activities that your students love and can be easily replicated at home. I like to pick some activities with very little prep or supplies needed and a few activities that do not need any supplies.
The number of activities you will need depends on how long you plan to host the event and how many centers you will be setting up. For my sight word evening I chose 12 activities but some of the activities did not require a center station and could be briefly shared in just a minute or two to the whole crowd. This left me with 8 stations that the parents and their child would rotate through in the hour I was hosting the event.
All of my favorite activities for parents that I used during the sight word parent night have been compiled into a booklet available in my Teachers Pay Teachers store which you can find here. The sight word activities I chose were (and still are) common activities such as making words with play dough and spelling words using silly voices that teachers are familiar with but not very many parents.
#2 - Teach the sight word activities whole class
Once you've picked the activities you are going to use during your sight word night, it's important to teach the activities to your student. The secret to the success of your sight word parent night is to create some student buy-in which will help to increase attendance and excitement for the evening.
I always hype up the event a few weeks before (which is about how long we will spend practicing the routines of the 12 activities). Of course, some of these activities remain in my centers year round, such as the play dough spelling.
Depending on the level of your class you might introduce one new activity each day and then spend the remaining three days practicing them. The goal is to make each student the teacher for their parents during the sight word night and then later at home when practicing their spelling or sight words.
Having confidence in completing the activities independently as the teacher or expert will make your students want to continue the activities at home. Students at this age love to show off their newfound skills to their parents!
#3 - create a sight word kit to raffle off
Your parents will hopefully come because your students will beg them to because it's a chance to show off in the role of teacher. Plus, you will have been creating some buy-in and sending home an invitation to the event (included with the sight word parent booklet available in my store).
Now it's time to up the stakes by adding a HUGE basket of goodies I call the sight word kit that one lucky student will be taking home during sight word parent night.
I create the basket early and bring it into the classroom so the students can all ooh and ah over it and start really, really wanting to win it. I remind them daily, sometimes multiple times a day, that the only way to win it is to attend the sight word night. (Don't worry I give all my students a small sight word goody even if they weren't able to come).
Inside the kit you will find an assortment of items you can purchase at your local dollar store or that you may have handy in the classroom. As pictured below I have included a small doodle board, 2 mechanical pencils, a box of crayons, several mini play dough containers, a sand timer, a clean decorative fly swatter, shaving cream, a notebook, and 2 paint brushes.
All of the items have been chosen to go with my parent sight word booklet that I mentioned previously. If you do not wish to purchase the booklet, choose items for your kit that will be used to complete the activities during your sight word parent night. This way a lucky family will have a ready made kit that they can easily use to implement the activities at home immediately.
Other items you may wish to include in the sight word kit might include a set of magnetic letters, a tub of hair gel and several freezer bags, a small dry erase board and markers, sight word flash cards or index cards to create their own, and a list of your class sight words.
#3 - Decide on and prepare your make and take center
I like to have one center or station as the make and take that all families should visit before leaving. I put the directions and all supplies at the center and families get to take home their own gel packet (students who were unable to attend are given their gel packet the next day in class).
If you would rather not have families make the packets on their own, set up your center with enough packets that each family can take one home. The labels you see in the picture are provided with the sight word parent booklet in my Teachers Pay Teachers store here. The gel packets can also be made with paint.
Making gel or paint packets is fairly simple. I like to use the freezer quart size bags as they are sturdier and need less gel or paint to fill. I add enough hair gel until I am able to spread the gel through the entire bag. I also like to add a little bit of water to make the gel easier to manipulate - it doesn't take much, less than a tablespoon works fine.
If the hair gel is not colored squeeze a drop or two of food coloring in the bag and seal it. Mix the color in and then use the tape to seal the top edge. If you'd like you can also seal all the edges with tape to prevent leaking. I only do this when they will be used in the classroom centers to help them last longer. I don't find the added step is needed for the parent night.
#4 - Set Up your stations for the event
I like to host the event in my classroom. I usually plan for the sight word night to take place from 5-6 pm or 4-5 pm, depending on my families and the school availability. Usually, someone from administration likes to be on campus during the event and it might even be required by your school district.
Using that same sight word booklet, I create enough copies for all my students and an additional copy that I print onto cardstock. Cut apart the cardstock copy and use the pages for your station signs.
I find it easier to help the sign stand up if I tape a craft stick to the back and place the bottom in a binder clip. You can also minimize the page size so they will fit in picture frames. My favorite are the Ikea 4x6 standing frames.
Arrange the room into table groups if it is not already. Then, place one sign at each table group (minus the activities you will show briefly whole-group that do not need a station). Place all materials needed for that station on the table. I like to hand the parents the sight word booklet as they arrive and are greeted. This gives them a few minutes to look over the booklet and prepare for the activities they will be shown.
#5 - Teach, play, raffle
When it is time to begin, thank your parents for coming and do what you do best - teach! Remember to highlight their child as the expert teacher for the night as they will be leading the center activity when their parents arrive at that station. Depending on the number of families who arrive, you may wish to either have a timer to rotate the stations or just have families rotate once they have tried the activity. It doesn't take long!
Last, don't forget to raffle off the sight word kit and make sure all families leave with a printout of the activities and their directions plus a make and take project (like the gel packets). You may wish to ask families to take their picture during the event to save for your teaching portfolio.
I’m thinking of doing this during our upcoming student conferences in a few weeks! I love this idea, thank you! Hopefully it’ll go well…. Fingers crossed!
Yes, do it! I’d love to see any pictures if you try it. Feel free to tag me on social media using #sharedteaching. Best of luck and don’t hesitate to email me if you have any further questions.