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How Should I Teach Sight Words?

I used to tell the parents of my students that sight words were words that could not be sounded out. When my students would start sounding out a sight word, I would stop them and tell them they couldn't read it that way.  I taught these words as basically whole words…the spelling just needed to be memorized.  I have since learned that teaching these words as primarily whole units to be memorized visually, inhibits the way the brain actually stores and learns these words. It’s actually critical that students match the individual sounds of the word with their visual representations. This is known as orthographic mapping.  Any time we draw a student’s attention to only the spelling of the word, in a rote memorization fashion, we are inhibiting the orthographic mapping process. In other words, they need to sound it out…even when the spelling is not phonetically regular.

Because of this I have completely changed the way I approach sight words. I’d like to share my current plan for tea…

Phonemic Awareness: Where Do I Start?

The Why: I was shocked when I read that phonemic awareness is the most common source of reading difficulties. What!?!  Why in the world was I never taught about this in college?  Luckily, it has now become quite a hot topic in education, and for good reason.  Before we get into the how of phonemic awareness, let's clear up a few terms that are often confused. First of all, this:
I often hear teachers use the terms phonics and phonemic awareness interchangeably, but they are two separate things.  Phonemic awareness activities are oral and can be done blind-folded...they involve an awareness of the individualsounds in a word.  When you tie those sounds with print (letters)....then it becomes phonics.

Another term that is often confused is phonological awareness and phonemic awareness.
Phonological awareness is the umbrella term for the knowledge of sounds in spoken language.  Phonemic awareness is a subset skill and is the highest level of phonological awareness.  It is critical th…

A Decodable a Day Keeps Illiteracy Away

Teaching my kindergartners to read was so frustrating my first year. As kindergarten teachers, we naturally focus a lot on phonics.  After all, our main objective is to teach students the alphabet!  We spend a lot of time drilling and practicing letter names and sounds.  So, after spending so much time on letter/sound instruction, I'd bring small groups of students to the reading table and would give them books provided by our big box curriculum.  Suddenly, I had to tell students to stop sounding out the words and basically throw everything out the window that we had previously been learning.


"Oh, this word you can't sound out. Look at the picture, does it give you a clue?" I was so frustrated that these stories could not be read without me telling them the sentence pattern or having them look at the pictures for clues. I hated that students weren't putting their letter-sound knowledge to use.   I hated that they were basically going through the motions of readi…

Tips for the SDE National Conference in Las Vegas

Attending the 2018 SDE I Teach Conference in Las Vegas was so inspirational! I learned so much and got to connect with educators from around the country.  I loved hearing from a variety of speakers and teachers on all different topics. There was something to take away from each presentation and I loved being able to customize my schedule for the things I needed to hear.  Here are some of my highlights and top tips if you are planning to go:
1. Check In Early We checked in at the Venetian on Sunday evening and even then we experienced a long line...but it was nothing compared to the check-in line on Monday.  So, as soon as you get into town, I'd recommend checking in at your hotel.
Also, SDE was nice enough to open up registration on Sunday evening as well.  So we walked around the hotel a bit and then made our way to the SDE booth.  There was no line and I was able to pick up my registration materials and take some pics without fighting my way through hundreds of people.
2. Stay …