Friday, October 11, 2013

Sight Word Jenga

I'm a bit conflicted when it comes to sight words.  Personally I feel like it's much more valuable to learn words in context.  For instance, 'there' and 'their' are both sight words but if you simply memorise their pronunciation, stripped of context in a sentence you're surely doomed to become someone who makes embarrassing social media gaffes in later life!

There seems to be an emphasis on memorising the 100 golden/red/purple etc words before you die finish prep as though this is somehow the key to unlocking reading fluency (well at least if you listen to the marketing touted when trying to sell sight word products!!).

I challenge you to write anything of interest with the 100 words, which, if I remember correctly, is made up mostly of pronouns and only a handful of adjectives like big, little, old and new.  You are left with sterile sentences like 'I went before you' and 'That was big'.  To be fair the '100 words' were never intended to be used in isolation (though it is a fun challenge - prize for anyone who can write a whole paragraph!!),  and I guess in a broader literacy program, learning the sight words isn't going to kill anyone (unless perhaps they encounter grammar rage in adulthood when they misuse to, two and too).

So occasionally I dip into the sight word list with Minty… mostly so it won't seem like some new and competitively alluring benchmark of her progress when she starts 'real' school next year.  I have this cynical suspicion the sight words were invented to sell flash cards to hyper-competitive parents… "Little Ava is so advanced she's already up to her chartreuse words!"  "You must be so proud.  Jude, of course, is gifted so he passed chartreuse months ago and is already up to his puce words!".  

This week I bought a 'tumble tower' set so we could play sight words jenga.  Because even if learning sight words is a waste of time, I'm sure we can all agree that being a bad arse jenga player is an essential lifelong skill!!

In case you were wondering - we play so that as you remove a block you have to read the word and use it correctly in a sentence before you move to the next turn.  I've written a set of easier words in black on one side of each block and a harder set of words in green on the opposite side so she won't grow out of them too quickly.  I also plan to add some maths problems to the other sides of the blocks.

1 comment:

  1. You're a good mama, that's a great idea and fun! The range of understanding for children is so broad too, the pace of learning so different. My youngest is finishing prep and my dear friend's eldest child is in her class, her first experience of school. My Leila is a fantastic reader, it's huge in our house, her daughter is equally enthusiastic, has no remedial issues, yet is still very low on her reading testing. She was asking me about Leila's level and as I said to her, honestly, it's like comparing one child being better at football than another, you shouldn't compare, because it all comes to them in the end. Competition between peers, I know as adults they think it's a good thing, but when they're so little, I just want them to enjoy and learn and not feel it's a competition. We certainly have some puce and chartreuse parents too!