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Fluency with Sight Words for Second Graders

written by: Tracey Bleakley • edited by: Sarah Malburg • updated: 6/6/2012

Reading fluency is the ability to read text a quickly and expressively without errors. Many children struggle with fluency because they don't read many words with automaticity. Use these word fluency practice ideas to help 2nd Grade students build their sight word recognition.

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    Sight words are the words that one can read accurately and automatically. Often the term refers to phonetically irregular, high frequency words, but any word can be a sight word. The ability to quickly identify sight words is one of the key components in being a fluent reader. Students can improve this skill using a variety of games and activities. These activities can be used with any list of words you want your students to read smoothly. Some ideas are word wall words, spelling lists, word family lists and Dolch words or other high frequency word lists.

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    Word Sorting

    51eEDI+jFfL SL500 AA300 Word sorts are an important component in many word study programs. Sorting forces children to pay attention to the different features of words, such as beginning sounds, syllables, affixes and root words. There are many types of word sorts, but there are two main ways to use sorting to build sight word fluency.

    Repeated Sorts

    Often we have children do a word sort one or two times and then move on to another activity. However, allowing children to practice the sorts over and over again is one of the best ways to help them develop fast, accurate word recognition. To achieve this, have the children place their words for a sort in an envelope after the initial sort, instead of gluing them onto paper or into a word study notebook. Then encourage the students to spend five or ten minutes at the beginning of your spelling or word study time practicing the sorts. For children who need even more time with the sorts, find time in the day to call a small group to work with you on sorting.

    Speed Sorts

    After your second graders are able to accurately sort a particular set of words, introduce speed sorts to help them continue to build fluency. Let the children work in pairs with one child sorting his words, while the other times him with a stopwatch. Instruct the first student to sort his words three times, trying to get a faster time with each try. Then have the partners switch jobs, so that they each get a chance to practice. Most students will find this a very motivating way to practice reading sight words.

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    Flash Cards

    Flash cards are often given a bad name, but they can be very effective tools in helping children develop sight word fluency. Use flash cards to play games designed to increase students' word recognition.

    Oh No!

    Place 10-15 cards with words written on them in a shoe box or other container. Put five cards with the words "Oh No!" written on them in the same container. Children play in pairs or small groups. On his or her turn, the first child pulls a card out of the box and reads it. If he or she is able to read it quickly and correctly, then they keep the card. Then the next child takes a turn. If a child pulls an Oh No! card out of the box, he has to put all of his cards back in.

    Show Me

    Arrange 10-15 sight word cards face up on a desk or table. One child looks at the words while her partner calls out one of the words from a list written on another sheet of paper. The first child has to find the word as quickly as possible and point to it. If she does it correctly, she removes the card from the table. If not, it stays. Keep playing until all of the cards have been removed.

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    Speed Practice

    Here are a few more ideas for helping children build their fluency.

    Read, Rehearse, Read

    Give a student a piece of paper with a list of words to read written on it. You might have between 20 and 40 words on the list, depending on the child. Ask the child to read the words out loud to you and use a stopwatch to time him. Write the time down. Then give the child a short amount of time to practice reading the words on the list. When the time is up, have the child read the list to you and use the stopwatch to time him again. Hopefully, he will be faster the second time. You can let the child practice and read the list a third time if you want. Children love a race, so this activity where they race themselves can be very motivating.

    Writing for Fluency

    This activity will help students read and write words fluently. It can be done with the whole class, a small group or an individual child. Show the students a word like 'said.' Read the word together. Then have the children write the word on a dry erase board as they say each letter out loud. Then have them erase the word and tell them to write it again from memory. Encourage them to write the word as quickly as they can. Then tell them write it with tiny letters, with big letters and with their own fancy letters. Each time they write it, have them read it so that they are practicing both reading and writing the words. As they write, monitor their progress to make sure that they are spelling the word correctly. If a student is having trouble spelling the word, write it for her at the top of her board so that she has a guide. This way she won't spend her time practicing spelling it the wrong way.

    Your second graders will love these fun and engaging sight word practice activities. Along with other exercises, such as the repeated oral readings of short texts, you are reinforcing the important steps in helping children increase their reading fluency.

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    Reading Resource,

    Bear, Donald R. et al. Words Their Way: Word Study for Phonics, Vocabulary, and Spelling Instruction. Allyn &Bacon, 2011

    Lynch, Judy. "Word Learning, Word Making, Word Sorting." Scholastic, 2002