Building Sight Word Knowledge with Beginning English Learners

Focusing on sight word knowledge with beginning English learners is a great way to build literacy and language skills. 

Sight Words In Context

Sight words are important part of reading, but out of context, Els may have difficulties in understanding the meaning behind these words. So, depending on students' language proficiency, I highly recommend adding meaningful context to the focus sight words.

As for resources, I use a variety and I'm always changing it up.

I often pick out sight words from our weekly guided reading books. As we move on to new books, I'll spiral back and review the ones we've learned. As a quick comprehension check, I'll ask a word to be used in a quick sentence. 

Sometimes I add an activity for additional reinforcement and practice. 

I like using this resource with my primary elementary students.

I also use Jan Richardson's book, The Next Steps in Guided Reading because it has wonderful resources throughout. One of them being lists of sight words according to reading level. I've color coded mine using colored index cards. 

Another fun favorite with my primary elementary students is this "Read it, Build It, Write It" resource from Cindy Gilchrist found here. It's perfect to use as an independent or literacy center activity.

Recently I created these Irregular Sight Word Activities for ESL & Big Kids to meet the needs of my upper elementary English learners. 

click the link to preview this resource

I start with SET 1 and we work our way up to SET 5. Each set includes a PowerPoint with 20 irregular sight words used in context with visual supports. Then students play a fun "Fast Words" game.

click the link to preview this resource

Last year during distance learning, I assigned the digital Google Slides activities to my 5th and 6th graders. This year, however, we are back to in-person learning, so the printable version is my preferred format. 


I print the cover page plus all 20 worksheet activities front to back and then staple in the top let corner. Since it's a half page format, I cut along the center line and now I have two booklets! 

We are using it as a "warm-up" activity for the first 5 minutes of class. It's working out great and my students really enjoy it. They just took their "post test" assessment on the spelling of the Set 1 words and did an awesome job! :)

No matter which activities you incorporate into your instruction, sight words are like the glue that holds sentences together. Not only is it important that beginning ELs are able to read these words, but also understand their meaning. Hearing them, reading them, using them and writing them are what makes the glue sticky (pardon the analogy:).