Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Learning to Read and Spell Tricky Words

Hello, It's Christina from Hanging Around In Primary.  I am so happy to be guest blogging over here at Who's Who and Who's New.  It is an amazing honor!

I am a first grade teacher and have been for most of my career.  I absolutely love this age, especially the after-Christmas-oh-my-goodness-they-finally-get-it moments! 

Today I want to share with you some tips for teaching those tricky words.  You know the ones; those rule breaker words that our students cannot sound out.  These are the words that they just have to learn to {READ} memorize. I call these words Word Jail words.  

Every week I introduce 5 new words.  We don't have a set list to follow but I have developed my own go-to list and somewhat of an order over the years.  Most weeks the list will include a word that I like to call a Word Jail word - one of those nasty rule breakers. 

When I introduce the words each week we try to sound each word out.  The students quickly discover that the rules we know don't work when sounding out all words.  We then talk about why a particular word is tricky. 

When we take a closer look at each word and apply the decoding skills we have, we find that one or more of our weekly words just can't be sounded out - perhaps it has a silent letter or it has an unusual spelling.  I need to clarify here that a word that my first graders may consider a rule breaker may vary from your first graders or older students.  If I have not taught my kids about the soft c sound, for instance, they are going to cry out that {nice} is a rule breaker - it is, until they know there is a rule for the c sound.  I will put the word in jail if they believe it belongs there.

I believe strongly that kids need a hook to help them to learn to read and this just seems to work.  I find this especially true of the boys and this strategy definitely hooks my boys!  They love the jail. It is located right on the word wall as you can see from the picture above.  They love to put words there.  All of the words we decide are jail words go in "jail" and under the correct letter on the word wall.   Having those tricky words in one easy-to-read spot makes finding them easier, especially for some of those little ones who struggle with the number of words on the word wall.  This way the word can be found in two different places on the word wall.  

After I make a big production of putting a word in jail I like to take a moment to read through all of the words in the jail.  Again having all those tricky words in one place makes review of them much easier.  Throughout the week we will do "find and print" activities where I give them a word and they find and print it on their whiteboard.  My more competent students write a sentence using the Word Jail word.  There are many, many ways to practice sight words but these are some of our favorites. 

I run a modified version of the Daily 5 during my literacy block and I wanted my students to work on those tricky words then as well.  They often use the magnets and sit in front of the Word Jail and make words, they use markers and rainbow write them or make rainbow sentences.  During writing time I often see kids writing and then hear them exclaim "that's a Word Jail word" and run over to the word wall and check it out.  {there are often pencil marks all over the cards from kids pointing a little too closely} Frequently in reading we hunt for Word Jail words and I often see them swing their head towards the Word Jail when they spot one in a book.  Once they spot it in the Jail they are able to read it on the page.  That makes for a very happy teacher. 

I also created a pack of printables that includes 1 sheet for each of 35 word jail words.  Each printable reinforces a number of skills:  copying the word spelled correctly, identifying the correct spelling of the Word Jail word when it is presented with the misspelled version and crossing off the incorrect ones.  The students also have the opportunity to edit a sentence with a Word Jail word spelled wrong and to write their own sentence using the Word Jail word.  Included with this pack is also an editable file where you are able to insert your own words and create your own printable to match the words you would like to use.    

I have been using the Word Jail concept for years and I swear by it.  Kids need to learn their sight words so if I can make it just a bit more exciting, especially for the boys, then I think it needs to happen.  I never get tired of hearing them tell me when we are reading or writing that that they see a Word Jail word.

Thanks for stopping by. I hope you enjoyed reading about how I teach those tricky sight words.  If you are interested you can find the bundle of worksheets and Word Jail display and words here: 

You can find me over at my blog {HERE}.  Thanks for stopping by! 


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