Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Sydney's Sight Words

I know that I've told you this before, but it bears repeating, since it's so clearly marked throughout our school days:

My Sydney is a girl who likes to have the correct answer.

Unfortunately, school (like life) is all about incorrect answers, and daily Sydney is confronted with words incorrectly decoded, math problems incorrectly solved, lowercase y's and g's written incorrectly above the baseline.

I've taken to sending Syd to lie down in her bed and rest for several minutes when she throws a fit during schoolwork, and I'm surprised at how often she does fall asleep during this time, but mostly she isn't tired when she throws a fit.

She's frustrated.

It's led me to a different way to do school with Sydney, because Willow HATES review, but Sydney loves it. She thrives on it. Getting the correct answer, whether it's for the first or the hundredth time, makes her really, really happy.

So although this sight word activity that I'm about to show you would have driven Will utterly around the bend, it's one of Sydney's favorite moments of each school day. We call it the Sight Word Caterpillar, and it comes from Confessions of a Homeschooler, who has generously created a pdf of sight word caterpillars for all the dolch sight words from kindergarten through third grade.

Syd is currently working on the kindergarten and first grade sight words. When we first began this activity several weeks ago, she cut out all the sight words in those two groups over the course of a couple of weeks, and put them in a little brown paper bag that's hole-punched so that it will stay in her school binder. Mondays are "test days," in which Syd takes a try at reading every word in her bag, sorting each into a "can read" and a "not yet" pile (She usually has to go lie down a couple of times during this task). The words that she can't yet read go back in the bag, and every school day for the rest of the week I pull them out, read each one to her, and put it back in the bag. The words that she CAN read she adds to her Sight Word Caterpillar, which is taped near the bottom of one wall in our living room. Every single school day, during our reading time, she then does this:

Every. Single. Day. It's so repetitive that I don't think I'd make her do it if she didn't like it, but she likes it! It takes two minutes to do, it constantly reinforces what she knows, it's helping her with that subconscious pattern-building that's eventually going to unlock full literacy for her, and it's a practically painless memory drill. Even though Sydney can read all the words on the wall (they wouldn't be on the wall if she hadn't proved she could read them), she's clearly got the earlier words memorized and she's just as clearly still decoding each of the more recent words. I can't tell you how much easier she's finding reading now, with such a larger stash of memorized words to draw from, but I can tell you that we do get through entire reading lessons without fits these days.

Syd's almost through all the dolch sight words for kindergarten and first grade, and so I'm about to have her start on the second grade words. Her own reading material isn't at the second grade level yet, but after watching how these memorized words have improved her confidence in reading, my goal for her is to memorize all the dolch sight words through third grade during this academic year.

That's going to make for a REALLY long caterpillar!

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