Sight Word Sentence Ladders

Hello! I hope you are all enjoying your summers. My summer still feels like it's just begun, which is a nice feeling. :) As always, I have a long list of things I want to accomplish this summer. I usually only get 1/4 of my "wish list" done, but I'm still hopeful that I will get at least half done this summer. Ha! One of the things that is on my list is to finish all of my sight word-related packs that I've been chipping away at for the past couple of years. I have so many phonics resources out there and never quite seem to complete my sight word packs (clearly my love of phonics is shining through-ha!) I've been extra motivated recently because my younger son, Owen, has shown a sudden interest in learning to read. He is all about it now! He loves the excitement of learning each new word, so we've been focusing on mastering sight words. (As a side note, I never recommend just focusing on sight words. You always want to make sure your students have strong phonemic awareness and alphabet recognition.) Owen is at the perfect spot right now to learning to read so it is no surprise that he has the desire. He has strong phonemic awareness (he can rhyme well, blend phonemes when we play silly word games, and can identify the initial and final sounds in words.) He also knows his letters and can identify them with automaticity. The next step is sight words, sounding out CVC words, and learning the rules our language. I'm telling you all this not to be a proud mother or an obnoxious bragger mom, but to set the stage for how you would teach a child like this in your classroom or household. 

NOTE: This is a post centered around sight words and fluency, but fluency can not be obtained simply from memorizing sight words. A child MUST be automatic with letters and sounds and have phonemic awareness to be a reader. (For information about phonemic awareness, click here and here.) Proper phonics instruction is KEY to any good literacy program (and phonics instruction starts with the alphabetic principal and phonemic awareness). This is a resource to use along with your phonics instruction. To read about WHY sight words are important, click here to read this post. 

So here's how these work. Owen has been working on his Pre-Primer Dolch words. I used my Animal Sight Word pack, but you could just use regular notecards to introduce these words. He mastered the first 15 or so and had even read some sight word phrases. But he wanted to do some "real" reading. I mean, don't we all though? Is it fun to just read words on their own with no context? Not so much. So  I made these to transition from reading sight words in isolation to the eventual reading passage or book.  Let me tell you what he first said when I showed him the reading passage with all the words. "I can't read that. I can't read." So then I busted out the pretty colored cards. The first line just has one word and it happens to be a word he's been practicing. Sweet! I can read that, he thinks. So he gets through his first card, which is repetitive (see that bright yellow card below) and is getting excited because his little confidence is building. 

Then it's time to hand over the next card. Of course I'm also teaching him to use the picture clues for certain words, like park or swing at this stage (but don't be fooled because that is only temporary- I don't want him relying forever on those!) Finally, he's read through all the cards. There are a couple that I had him read a few times until he was confident. Then I hand over the paper. "Guess what, buddy? All the words you just read on those cards are the exact words on this page. So you can read it." He gives me a skeptical look but then of course glances at it and see that, actually, he can read that page. Sight words mastered? Check. Fluency for this little story? Check. Confidence growing? Check.

Here's a fun little video of my son getting started with these. Just humor me and watch because he is pretty adorable. ;) He LOVES these stories now! He always says, "I can't do that!" when he sees the full reading passage. Then after doing the (less overwhelming) sentence ladder cards, he's fluently reading those passages. He gets so excited! It's so empowering for our students to get the chance to sound fluent when they are beginning to read or struggling with reading. 

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