As we shift into forming our literacy blocks using the Science of Reading research, it can be tempting to decide to not use sight word centers.
I feel that’s a mistake.
There are still a lot of benefits to using your sight word centers which we will discuss today.
First, sight words are words we recognize by sight.
Sight words are NOT:
- Words we can’t sound out
- Words we need to memorize
Sight Word Centers Allow Practice of Taught Skills
If done right, all of your centers should allow students to practice skills you have already taught. This includes your sight word centers. In my class, sight word stations are words my students have been pre-assessed on and need extra practice to learn.
I have found that a majority of the time the words students have trouble reading are also the ones they have trouble spelling. In the morning I do 10-15 minutes of explicit phonics on a specific phonics pattern. Then, students also have word study groups that target a phonics skill they are needing.
When I release my students to do sight word centers, they are looking at their sight words to find phonics patterns they recognize. They may also be spelling and reading with a partner or by themselves to gain fluency in these words. For this reason I like to assess my students on both the reading and spelling of sight words. You can read more about my practices in the post Differentiate Spelling in Minutes for First and Second Graders.
Sight Word Centers Allows for Differentiation
I find sight words to be one of the easiest things in my classroom to differentiate. I think this is because I have sorted out the sight words into lists of 5. Students are assessed on 20-25 words at a time to find their personal level of difficulty. Then I assign them a list using my pretest as a guide.
Because I have made up several centers using these lists (and color coded them), students can easily pull out the list that applies to them and work on the words they need. As they learn their group of words, they receive new words.
My sight word centers also have differentiation built into the type of activity they are completing. Some students are finding the sight words in context. Other students are writing the words in a variety of ways. A different group might be using play dough to make the words.
Sight Word Centers Build Fluency and Automaticity
The Science of Reading research agrees that a solid literacy framework should include comprehension, fluency, vocabulary, phonics, and phonemic awareness. Sight word centers can help with comprehension, fluency, vocabulary, and phonics!
The more sight words students gain with automaticity, the more they can concentrate on learning new words. This is where sight words help with comprehension and vocabulary. If students are spending a lot of time sounding out what we consider “easy” words, they might not have the capacity to learn content words or academic vocabulary.
Over the many years I’ve been using sight word centers, I have noticed an increase in my students’ fluency. Some of this can be attributed to repeated readings of passages but I believe most of the improvement comes from students gaining confidence in reading from knowing more sight words.
Sight Word Centers Increase Confidence
As I just mentioned, students that learn their sight words increase in reading confidence. When they come and read with me, I see beaming smiles and proud students because they start recognizing their list of sight words in print.
If done correctly, students also show an increase in recognizing phonics patterns in words. This helps them to sound out unfamiliar words quickly (and confidently). My end goal for my students is to have them grow as readers and I feel incorporating sight word centers in my daily routine helps to do this.