I recently had the privilege of providing professional development for an amazing group of primary teachers. We discussed a lot of different strategies, best teaching practices, and activity ideas. Professional development days are always my favorite…especially when teachers are eager & excited to learn more in an effort to provide kids with every learning opportunity they possibly can.
During this particular PD, we talked a lot about sight words. It always fascinates me how the expectations differ from school to school, district to district. At this particular campus, the teachers were using Fry Words as the basis for their sight word instruction, but were looking for more ideas to help students retain & apply what they were learning. We talked a lot about improving automaticity with these words as well.
I shared a lot of ideas that have worked for me through the years (you can read about some of those ideas in this blog post) as well as a few new ideas that have been very successful implemented in several different classrooms. One of the ideas we discussed was implementing sight word fluency activities to help students improve both retention and automaticity while improving their overall reading fluency as well.
These sight word fluency cards were created in an effort to scaffold learning & practice and provide students with repeated opportunities to increase their word base and improve retention.
Starting with the First Hundred Fry Words, students will be given the opportunity to repeatedly practice reading a set of 10 sight words in a given amount of time. These sight word fluency cards can be paired with sand timers in varying time increments (teacher OR student choice). The student will start the timer and read each word on the card accurately and quickly. Each time the set has been read, the student will mark a bubble at the bottom of the tracking card. Students will continue to read the set of words until the time runs out.
The fluency cards are organized into sets of cards with words in isolation (one word only), two word phrases, and three word phrases. Ideally, students would start with the single word fluency cards and then gradually work their way up to the three word phrases. The teacher can modify reinforcement by providing students with different time increments in an effort to challenge students or provide additional time & support.
“But if we’re allowing our kids to read these cards independently without any teacher support or assessment, how can we be sure that they’re even reading the words accurately?”
That’s ALWAYS a concern with any activity we choose to allow students to complete independently, but especially with activities like these that don’t necessarily have a paper/pencil component. How do we really know if they’re practicing something the right way?! Some of my teachers who are using these fluency cards in their classrooms are monitoring student accuracy using video! Yes! I love the idea of adding a little tech into the mix. Basically, these teachers are encouraging their students to record themselves reading the fluency cards. The student will read aloud the number on the card they’ve chosen, set the timer, and read while being recorded. The teacher will later watch the video to check for accuracy. Some of my teachers are even saving these fluency cards for small group warm-ups so that they can personally check for accuracy in real time. Love that idea, too!
One thing we’re loving about these fluency cards is that we’re able to provide students with repeated exposure & opportunities to see and read these words in a variety of ways. Automaticity AND retention are improving and that’s ALWAYS something to celebrate!!!
The teachers with whom I was working that day suggested including tracking sheets to keep students accountable as well. What a GREAT idea! Individual tracking sheets are included with each word list/set and kids can keep themselves accountable by recording the number of times they were able to accurately read the words on a particular card in a given amount of time. Ideally, the number of times would gradually increase with each reading thus improving overall reading fluency & sight word automaticity. ALL the amens!
While there are MANY different strategies and ideas to help students improve their reading fluency & sight word retention and automaticity, we’re loving the addition of this activity that provides students with multiple exposures and opportunities for practice and reinforcement. At the end of the day, we want to do everything we can to help our kids improve and this is just one vehicle that takes them on the path to improvement.
What are some of your favorite sight word activities and interventions?
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