How to Effectively Teach Sight Words to Struggling Readers

From a customer this week:

“I bought this set [SnapWords® List A] last week and wanted to give it a test run before I left feedback. It works! I work with a little boy in 1st grade who is dyslexic (along with a diagnosis of Childhood Apraxia of Speech). I picked a few cards this week that include his target speech sounds. We did them a few minutes each day this week, and he can identify and say two of them without the visual cues! He caught on quickly to the hand motions - I didn't think about it, but he uses his hands a lot already when he communicates. I made a page with lots of words all over it, and he can find the ones he knows and say them. He's so excited - I'M so excited! On his recent benchmark testing, he only knew the same two sight words he knew at the beginning of the year. He has a long way to go, but I really bragged on him for basically doubling his sight word inventory in one week! I love this product, and I will definitely be back for more sets once he masters List A!” 

- Karen P. commented on SnapWords Sight Word List A Pocket Chart Cards

We get this type of feedback on a regular basis; that children who have struggled to learn and retain sight words or other reading concepts were suddenly able to learn and remember when they were able to use the right-brained materials designed at Child1st Publications.

What makes the difference?

Here is a comparison between plain sight words and SnapWords® (sight word flash cards with pictures and body motions).

Plain sight words cards:

what plain sight words look like


Here are the same words - as SnapWords®

Note that these are the same words, but rather than looking like little black wires (symbols that carry no meaning), these words are rich in content and meaning. There is something for the visual cortex to grab hold of and remember.


The difference SnapWords make

Take a closer look:

Look more closely at the word WAS. This word falls into the category of difficult for some children because of the fact that the A sounds like “AH” and the S sounds like a Z. It is also not a noun and not an action verb, which makes the word harder to illustrate.

Here is the front of the SnapWords® card:

SnapWords WAS


Notice that the wings of the butterfly mimic the shape of the W while the S is the caterpillar.

Here is the back of the same card:

SnapWords backs of cards


How to teach the word:

After you tell the child that the colorful word on the front of the card says WAS, turn the card over and show him the back. Ask which part of the word was the butterfly and which was the caterpillar. He should identify the W with the WINGS of the butterfly and the S as the curly caterpillar.

Show the body motion and have the child copy what you do, and then say, “The butterfly WAS a caterpillar.”

This experience with the SnapWords® card is a complete teaching experience with a visual that requires no memorization, a body motion that reflects the word, and then a sentence that draws attention to the meaning of the word.

Learning to rely on several parts of the brain for learning and recall:

If you let your child study the front of the card and comment on what she sees, next ask her to close her eyes and “see” the word and picture in her mind. Ask her what she “sees” first. When she’s gotten a good look at the word in her mind’s eye, let her open her eyes and write the word on paper or on a whiteboard with a dry erase marker. She might want to embellish it for herself. I am going to stick my neck out here and guarantee you that the few minutes it took to teach this word will have a far more lasting effect on her memory than if she had only the plain sight word flash card for WAS at her disposal.

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