When teaching sight words for second graders, there are some differences to notice. Sight words are important to teach but they are not just for memorization. Today we’ll cover some strategies to use instead.
What Are Sight Words
Sight words, also known as high-frequency words, are an essential component of early literacy development. These are words that students should recognize instantly, by sight, without the need for decoding.
In second grade, building a strong foundation of sight words is crucial as it significantly contributes to reading fluency and comprehension. The more sight words a student has in their arsenal, the better they will be at reading texts.
I always tell parents during conferences that it allows them to spend less time on sounding out words and more time comprehending what they are reading.
Introducing Sight Words
I like to use a 5 step process for introducing sight words. You can read about it in the blog post How to Introduce Sight Words in 5 Powerful Ways.
Personally, I recommend introducing no more than 5 words each week. I also recommend that each introductory lesson should include seeing, hearing, speaking, spelling, and writing the new words.
When introducing sight words for second graders, it’s okay to move at a little faster pace which is why I pick 5 words. They are also reviewing previously taught words in centers and small groups - depending on the needs of your students.
Although the class might be at different levels, I will still pick 5 words and have the whole class learn these words. Once you have a set routine down it should only take 5 minutes or less. It can be a very quick process.
Irregular Spelled Words or Heart Words
Pointing out which words are irregular, or heart words, can benefit our second graders who are learning sight words. Having a sound wall and posting these words can be a great help as well.
Heart words, or irregular words, are sight words that do not follow the typical grapheme sounds as other words. Students learn this part of the word “by heart” and can mark it with a heart above. Then when students are learning the word, they focus on the sounds they can sound out and add the learned heart word part.
I like to add this practice of mapping out the sounds they see in their words during centers. You can learn more about this in my post Science of Reading and Sight Words: Making Your Centers Work.
Play Dough Sight Word Mats
One of my favorite activities for second graders is my play dough mats. Prep for this activity is very easy and just requires the mini tubs of play dough. I find mine at Walmart or Target but you can also order from your favorite online stores. Then all you need are the sight word mats. Mine come from my TpT store and can be found by clicking the picture below.
A bonus of these sight word mats over other play dough mats is that students are not only practicing the word multiple times but they are seeing it in context (within a sentence). This is key for what we now know about the science of reading.
Students need to have context and should not be learning sight words in isolation. My sight word play dough mats and letter boxes use the same anchor sentence to help students begin to make connections with the same words.
Sight Word Letter Boxes
Another of my favorite activities for sight words for second graders is letter boxing. During the letter box center, students will read the anchor sentence and then find the word that matches the letter boxes. For example, the word look would have a tall box followed by two shorter boxes and end with a tall box. Students then look at the words in the sentence to see which one matches this pattern.
I love these letter box centers because it helps students to focus on the formation of letters. Students also attend more to the print rather than guess a word that has a similar starting letter as with other activities created to practice sight words.
Sight Word Interactive Notebooks
My last favorite activity is to have my students work on sight word interactive notebooks. Each student has an individual sight word list they are working on. These lists are assigned from a master list of Dolch words that have been pre-tested at the beginning of the year. During centers, students use their personal list (made of 5 or 10 words) and focus on those words for each of their sight word centers.
One of the sight word center stations is to complete a page in their sight word interactive notebook. These notebooks provide students with repetitive practice of spelling the sight words as well as spiral review of previous sight words.
Additional Activities for Sight Words for Second Graders
Second graders need a little more practice with sight words than just spelling or copying the words. Some students in your second grade class might need this practice and that’s okay but they should also be putting the words into sentences, reading sentences to find the words, and finding the phonics patterns within words.
Every year I send a Sight Word Practice book home for parents that has a variety of ways to practice words (spelling or sight words) that are not rote memorization and drill. Many of the activities are fun ways to practice words that are very hands-on.