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Sight Words Method: Teaching Strategy

The topic that is chosen for the present work is about vocabulary enhancement with the application of the visual method (Sight words, environmental print, etc.). The choice of the current topic has been made on studying the booklet “A Focus on Vocabulary” (Lehr et al. 2004). The booklet provides necessary information on students’ vocabulary and gives evidence that “the development of [students’] vocabulary knowledge must remain a priority” (Lehr et al., 2004, unpaged). Thus, vocabulary enhancement should be the first consideration of teachers as rich vocabulary may be considered a sign of literacy of students. From a psychological point of view, about 60 percent of the population are visual learners (UTMB 2001), this is why the methods that are based on visual perception of material may be very effective in the development of students’ vocabulary. However, the question remains if the method of Sight Words, as well as other visual methods, is suitable for students of secondary and upper grades.

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The method of Sight Words is known due to the contribution of such scientists as Dolch and Fry who composed the lists of sight words, the most frequently used words, which should be recognized at once when seen in a text, this makes the process of perception of a text easier. The lists have been studied by us as they are available (Fry’s Instant Sight Words, Dolch Basic Sight Word List). The analysis of the sources has shown that the lists include basic words that ensure cognition, such as pronouns, prepositions, frequently used verbs and nouns. Sight words are often used in Word Wall: “an ongoing, organized display of key words that provides visual reference for students throughout a unit of study or a term” (Marzano, 2004, p. 68). Word Walls are also studied by Cronsberry (2004) who emphasizes their importance for students’ motivation (p. 1). The web search has shown that visual methods, such as word walls, environmental prints are most frequently used by educators for the instruction of elementary students and students with disabilities (Kuby and Aldridge, 2004, p. 1), (Gately 2007). However, the approach seems to be promising and should not be limited to these groups of students.

During the analysis of any teaching method, independent and objective opinion is always useful. This is why, the point of view of a teacher of upper grades, Ms. Wilson, will be presented. When asked about the possibility of the usage of Sight Words, environmental prints, and Word Walls, she seemed rather perplexed. She disapproved of the method, saying that the students of upper grades should have developed skills of analysis, synthesis, etc. She thought that visual method was too simplistic, hence, inappropriate for upper students. When asked about the general value of the method, she answered that it might be used with kindergarten children and elementary learners only. Thus, Ms. Wilson’s attitude towards the method turned out to be radical and rather skeptical.

Though the above has shown negative attitude towards the method, it may be used with secondary students and upper grade students as well, and it goes without saying that it is one of the best methods to use to enrich vocabulary of elementary learners. The method may be used with secondary and upper grade learners who study English as a second language. In this case, depending on the current level of knowledge, even easy material may be useful, such as Sight Words (Fry, Dolch), Unit Word Walls that present key words from a unit. Besides, Writer’s Word Walls may be used in upper grades; they contain words that are necessary for essay-writing. In order not to make unsubstantiated statements, it is possible to refer to Marzano (2004), who states that it is possible to use Think Word Walls with Business students, Grades 9-10 (p. 69).

As for the disadvantages of the methods of sight words, it is necessary to state that it may really be too simplistic and unproductive if the words taken are familiar for learners. Still, in this case it is not the weak point of the method; the teacher is the one to be blamed. If he/she chooses appropriate words, it may be done together with students by means of synthesis of their suggestions of the words, the method is sure to be productive.

The idea of the usage of Writer’s Word Wall seems interesting. If we had to compose such a wall, it would present three well-ordered sections with new words for writing. The source of the words may be a literary work that is studied. The Word Wall will present interesting nouns (enigma, decorum, etc.), adjectives (multidimensional, flabbergasted, odious, etc.), and verbs (mesmerize, eradicate). The students will be asked to find definitions, synonyms to these words. The task may be to use several words in every essay they write. Besides, a word game may be used, when the words are written on the cards, there are two cards with the same words and they are on the table, only the blank side of a card is seen. Students take two cards and the task is to find two of the same cards. The one who finds them takes them. The winner is the student who accumulates the greatest number of cards.

As for the age appropriate resources for the students, they may differ depending on the age and proficiency level of the students. However, these resources may be used as the models for the teachers. All of them may be transformed. A teacher should not forget that he is a creative and talented person. The sources are: Readeez, Vol. 1 (Waters & Waters 2008), “Making Word Walls Work” (Lynch 2005).

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Drawing a conclusion, it should be stated that the visual method of teaching that is based on Sight Words is very flexible and effective. It may be used with all students in order to enrich their vocabulary, help them learn key concepts and terms. Though there are different opinions concerning this method, the fact that there are a lot of articles concerning it, proves its effectiveness. The web search has shown that there are a lot of materials available to use this method, now it is up to every teacher to decide if Sight Words become a part of his/her teaching strategy or not.

Reference List

Cronsberry, J. Word Walls. (2004). A Support for Literacy in Secondary School Classroom. Web.

Dolch, E.W. Dolch Basic Sight Word List. Web.

Fry, E.B. Fry’s 300 Instant Sight Words. Web.

Gately, S. E. (2007). Teaching Students With Severe Disabilities to Read: The Need for Reconciling Constructivism. Rivier Academic Journal, 3(1). Web.

Harmon, J.M., Wood, K.D., Hedrich, W.B., Vintinner, J., and Willeford T. (2009). Interactive Word Walls: More Than Just Reading the Writing on the Walls. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 52(5), 398-408. Web.

Kuby, P., & Aldridge J. (2004). The Impact of Environmental Print Instruction on Early Reading Ability. Journal of Instructional Psychology. Web.

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Lehr, F., Osborn, J., and Hiebert E. H. (2004). A Focus on Vocabulary. Pacific Resources for Education and Learning. Web.

Lynch, J. (2005). Making Word Walls Work: A Complete, Systematic Guide With Routines, Grade-Perfect Word Lists, and Reproducible Word Cards to Help All Children Master High-Frequency Words. NY: Teaching Resources.

Marzano, R.J. (2004). Building Background Knowledge for Academic Achievement: Research on What Works in Schools. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 68-69. Web.

UTMB. (2001). UTMB Work Scholl Programs. Web.

Waters, I., & Waters J. (2008). Readeez, Vol.1, Readeez Company, DVD.

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