How We Handle "Helper Words" (Sight Words)

Reading With Robbie

As you probably know, we have been using Hooked on Phonics (HOP) since January. We started with the Kindergarten, Levels 1 & 2 and are now 1/3 of the way through 1st Grade, Level 1.

I was only comfortable using the word family/helper words (a.k.a. "sight words") approach on my own terms. I've tutored too many children who guess more than they read due to being immersed in word families and sight words without a decent grip on phonics.

First, I had to make sure that Robbie was sounding words out well enough to use the word families as a tool and not a crutch. The next thing I tackled was all the "helper words" in the HOP books.

I know the arguments for having the child simply memorize even the most basic and phonetic sight words, but that made no sense to me (or to Robbie for that matter). I have simply been teaching Robbie any rules he needs to know for each particular word. There have only been a few that I've had him memorize (who, said and says... I think that's it). We still talk about the sounds in these words because he's a "why?" kid about EVERYTHING.

Anyway, here are a few activities we did this week with a few of his new helper words:

I made some print-outs of some easy and (hopefully) fun activities. I didn't want this to dominate our days, so I planned very short activities. (No need to memorize these. In fact, he is now comfortable with the -ay sound since we discussed its use in the word "play")

He colored his helper words.

I told him that he forgot to color the "e" and he replied that he was leaving it blank because it was silent. We may do this for all silent letters in the future.

He built the sentence I dictated. (I don't think I'll make these anymore. He seemed to think it was boring. Perhaps a silly sentence would be better received. Hmmm...)

Here you can see all of his helper word rockets from HOP K. You can also see all of his helper words he's colored this week (on the cards). He'll make a "Helper Word Rocket" of these words either today or tomorrow. He loves to make them "blast off" once they have been completed.

This was a giggly grin I captured while we were working on reading earlier this week. I love that he's having fun. :)

As you can see, it's nothing innovative... but it's how we do things (and it seems to be working for Robbie).

Okay, having said all of that, please do not take offense if you use sight words or even if you teach absolutely NO phonics. I know what makes sense to me (and it seems to be how my child's mind works, as well). Every child is different. As long as they grow to be literate, the methods are of little consequence in the long run. :)

Here are some sites that inspired our activities (although we tweaked them a bit):


Shining Our Lights


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