Introducing the first installment of my personal, badly drawn collection of Illustrated Sight Word Sentences. Drawn from the PRE-PRIMER DOLCH LIST of sight words these are some of the first English words many children are taught to read.
I started making this sight word pack in my second year of teaching Grade 1, after a first year that was riddled with awkward and amusing trial and error – including a moment towards the end of the year when my Principal made a casual comment about how I was obviously teaching the Dolch sight words to my students (I wasn’t.)
I had heard of the Dolch sight words, but it hadn’t really occurred to me to teach them explicitly. The Dolch Sight words are a list of about 200 most commonly used words in English. They are helpful to learn off-by-heart, because many are not phonetic. A this time there was still a cautious part of me that was questioning explicit teaching in general. I was always looking for ways to make a topic fun, and for my student’s learning to be almost incidental to their amusement. But at the end of my first year, I had to admit to myself that my student’s reading and writing was not up to standard. I needed to find a way of balancing explicit teaching with fun, engaging activity and practice.
I took the Dolch Pre-Primer and Primer list, which is widely taught in Kindergarten and Grade 1 and I broke it down alphabetically into sections. I began to teach approximately 5 words a week. For each weekly set of words, I made up a silly sentence that incorporate all the new words. Then I illustrated it with a silly picture. Each week I would introduce the picture and sentence and then the class would have fun playing different games and doing activities to internalise the words.
Contrary to my earlier wariness about explicit teaching I found that teaching sight words in this explicit (but fun) way revolutionised my class’s language learning, because it empowered them and gave them access to basic reading and writing tools. These words are the ones you find in early reading books, and they are the words a child is most likely to use to write their first English sentences, stories or letters. Teaching literacy as about unlocking this power within our students – and then letting them run with it for the rest of their lives.
So without further ado, my intention is to share this whole Sight Word series in PDF documents over the coming weeks. It will include all my Illustrated Silly Sentences, sight word lists, printable cards and other resources for simple games kids can play to practice reading – and writing - the words.
Here, as a taster, is my very first Illustrated Silly Sentence entitled ‘I saw a big blue fish swimming away’ along with a PDF of related word cards that you can print and cut out.
Next time I will upload the related word cards and game suggestions.
Illustrated Silly Sentence by Kathryn Muller is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.