"Practice" with Abstract Sight Words

I've been researching information for the family literacy night engagements. First, I ran off a list of Dolch words (one of many sight word lists, this list is organized by frequency of occurrence in early reading texts), and I ran across this advice on practicing abstract sight words from Patricia Cunningham: Use words like of or that in phrases, along with pictures, for practice.

Imagine the challenge of creating such flashcards. In the end, I can only advise reading real books. To me, reading is not practice ... it's reading. Kids learn to read by reading. They are also learning more about what it is they are reading. (They are also learning their identity as readers: Are they in the "top group" or the "low group" or ...? But that's a discussion for another time.)

The challenge might be to find the right books, and that's why librarians, teachers, and literacy coaches are here, not to mention Nancy Pearl (all ages), Franki Sibberson (elementary) and Teri Lesesne (adolescents).

Another colleague suggests families only use the flashcards that have meaning, that you could talk about or draw. Words like house, tree, car, friend, sun, neighborhood. She also concurs that reading books is what really matters.

Today I borrowed five early readers from a first grade colleague and analyzed each one by highlighting the sight words in each one. Here are the titles: Days with Frog & Toad, Mouse Tales, Owl at Home, Stuart Little, and The Teeny Tiny Woman. All of these books will work for these less experienced 1st-3rd grade readers.

One of my librarian colleagues offered additional titles of similar and of slightly more difficult books: The Fox series, Henry & Mudge, Amelia Bedilia, M & M (detective series), Biscuit, Commander Toad, and Nate the Great. The analyzing work continues. And I'm not just thinking about whether these books contain the right words (listen to how crazy that sounds!), but if they are right for this diverse group of English language learners. It is not a surprise that Teri titled her book, Making the Match.

More soon!

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