When my oldest son entered kindergarten, we learned that he was at a disadvantage. He is a smart kid, but judging by the amount of sight words he knew, he was way behind some of the other kids in his class.
Our son did not attend a rigorous preschool where they drill students on sight words and basic math skills day after day. Nor did he live in a house with parents who devoted tons of time to those skills. Sure, we worked on letters, numbers, shapes, and reading, but not to the extent that others do.
With our second child, we’re trying to be more on top of these skills before he enters kindergarten. It’s easier in a sense because we now have the knowledge of what will put our youngest on the path to greater elementary school success.
Here are some tips that we’re implementing:
1. Start Simple and Slow
Find some basic word lists to begin with. Usually, you can find these lists of 300-500 words on the school website. Choose the simpler words first: “a,” “an,” “the,” and the like.
2. Make Flash Cards
It’s much easier if you break the words into flashcards and try to get through 10-15 per day. Any more than that and you risk overwhelming your child.
To truly ingrain the words that you’re working on, build on the list each day. In other words, repeat the 10 from the day before and build on that by adding another five or so the next day.
4. Show Words in Other Contexts
When you’re reading a book to your child and you spot one of the sight words they've learned, stop and quiz your child. Can they recognize that word?
5. Don’t Overdo It
Your child has a limited attention span. Remember to ease into this work and not to overdo it. If you do, they'll resist. Also, this is not a competition. It’s a way to build a foundation for the educational learning to follow in school.
6. Know When to Back Off
If your child does become frustrated, stop. Your child might not be ready for such a workload. If you can, try to structure the activity so that it happens daily, around the same time each day. That might help ease the burden.
7. Offer Rewards
If your child does well — or at least tries to learn the words — reward them with something that will incentivize the activity.