Use one or more of these activities to help your kindergartener master their popcorn (sight) words. Make learning to read simple and fun!
Learning to read is an exciting venture for young children, but it can also be scary and overwhelming. When a child looks at a book, all of the letters on the page are like a foreign language to them. It is our job as the parent to help them turn this foreign language into a native language.
While kindergarten students are typically the age when reading begins, do not let this dictate your comfort level with your child’s reading strength and comprehension. All children are unique and while some may quickly excel at reading and surpass their grade level, others will need more time and patience. One major benefit of homeschooling is that as the parent and teacher, you get to focus your attention on only one young reader at a time. There is no playing the comparison game and this is good news! It means that you get to enjoy snuggling up with your child and teaching them to learn how to read without all of the pressure or frustration. And your child can enjoy learning to read without feeling behind or slow compared to their peers.
While there are different ways to teach your child to read, popcorn words are a great way for them to quickly learn a lot of common words so that they have a solid foundation established. This gives them the confidence early on that they can do it! It is really hard to get a child to want to read when they do not recognize any words on the page.
What Are Popcorn Words?
Popcorn words are also commonly known as sight words. They are high frequency words that young readers see early on in books for their grade level. When young children are learning to read, a great way to do this is by helping them to memorize popcorn words, or sight words, alongside learning the phonics rules. When your child learns these high-frequency words, they will more quickly become confident, fluent readers.
There are two commonly used kindergarten sight words lists for popcorn words. The first is the Dolch word list which is the most commonly used. It contains many service words and high-frequency nouns. Once your child knows these popcorn words from the Dolch word list, they will know about 80% of the words found in the average children’s book. Then they only have to focus on actually sounding out any additional words in the story. The fry sight word list is another commonly used list for kindergarten sight words. It is a list of the 1,000 most common words found in written material in the English language.
You will find a lot of common words and color words on both lists, as well as words that are rule breakers (ones that break the normal spelling rules or phonics rules). When you help your young reader learn these sight words through memorization, there will be a lot less frustration and more enjoyment as they quickly become a better reader.
How to Help Your Child Learn Popcorn Words
Younger children learn really well when they are able to use their whole body and incorporate movement. If your child is struggling to learn how to read, change things up. Get up and use your bodies to turn learning into a whole-body experience.
A fun way to help your child learn a lot of new words is to use a variety of methods, like fun games and other activities. Don’t just stick with the same thing over and over. When you use different methods, you just might discover the way your child’s brain learns best. Learning this will also help you in many other areas of homeschool. Grab your free download below and try out a sight word game to help your child learn popcorn words in a fun way.
Popcorn Words Activity #1: Flash Cards
A super simple way to learn popcorn words is by using flash cards. Repetition is key when memorizing sight words. We love to keep our flash cards right near our dining room table to run through after meals. To make flash cards, all you need are a stack of index cards and a thick marker. Choose 8-10 words for your child to work on and write them in large print on the index cards.
Tip: Keep small groups of cards together. Do not work on the whole group of popcorn words because that can quickly become overwhelming. You can always go back and review previous small groups of cards.
There are several other ways you can use these sight word cards with your student. Try laying them out in a line on the ground about a foot apart. Then, have your child hop from card to card, saying the word as quickly as they can. Or, spread the flash cards all out on a table close together. Then, using their hand, a fly swatter, or other object, have your student slap or smack the word as quickly as possible after you say it aloud.
Popcorn Words Activity #2: Word Search
Another activity to help your young child learn popcorn words is to pull out a blank piece of paper and write the sight words spread out all over it. Leave plenty of space between and around the words so that they stand out. Feel free to write each word more than once, and you can even write some in all lowercase letters and some all uppercase letters. Mix it up to help your student be able to more quickly identify these high frequency words, whether they see them in all uppercase or all lowercase letters.
Once your sheet of paper is ready, it is time to start the word search. Give your child a dot marker and say a sight word aloud. Have your student search and find all of the matching words.
Tip: Save time by making it only once. Once you fill in your sheet of paper, use your printer to make multiple copies of it. This way your student can repeat the activity until they are proficient at recognizing the sight words quickly.
You can also have your student do a word search from a paragraph in a book. Sit with them while they search through the paragraph to find sight words from their current list. They will be so excited when they see how many they know and how close they are to reading a book by themselves.
Popcorn Words Activity #3: Fine Motor Skills
A really great way to ingrain sight words into your child’s long-term memory is to utilize fine motor skills. When you use multiple facets of your brain, other than just vision to recognize the letters that form a word, the long-term memory is strengthened and it is easier for young readers to recall the correct sight word.
This does not need to be complicated. Keep it simple so that adding a new sight word to your child’s list is not overwhelming.
Having your child say the word and then write the word is a great way to use vision and fine motor skills. You could also just have your child trace the word. To add another level of difficulty with handwriting, try writing their list of popcorn words down on a piece of paper, but leave out a missing letter here and there. Then have your child go through the list and fill in the correct sight word.
Don’t stress out if your child isn’t a fan of handwriting. They can also use playdoh, magnetic letters on a refrigerator or baking sheet, letter stamps, or any other material you think of that can be used to form letters and spell words. Another way to get them to practice writing the popcorn words is to try it in different materials. Instead of using pencil and paper, try using a stick in mud, or a dull item in salt, or a finger in shaving cream. Sometimes just changing up the materials makes it more exciting and your child will be more willing to try it.
Popcorn Words Activity #4: Word Walls
This final activity will quickly become a favorite, especially for your very active boys and girls. You can either use the flash cards you already made and some tape or use post-it notes. Write your child’s current list of popcorn words down and tape or post them scattered on the wall to create a popcorn word wall. You can do it all in one room or spread them throughout the house. Then, hand your child a nerf gun and some darts. Finally, have them go through the house looking for their sight words.
The point of this sight word game is to have them shoot the index card or post-it notes and then tell you what it says quickly before searching for the next sight word.
I hope that your child will enjoy one or more of these sight word games and take off on their reading journey! Reading opens your child’s eyes to an incredible world, whether it’s imaginary or true. Reading teaches your child lessons without them facing consequences or failures. And reading gives your child the opportunity to live a life through someone else’s perspective. It truly is an amazing gift.
Leave any questions you have about teaching your child to read in the COMMENTS.
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