When I first started teaching it took a lot of coaching and repeated practice to teach my beginning readers and language learners to work with multisensory materials like playdough, letter stamps, and magnet letters appropriately and independently. I couldn’t write out directions for them because they couldn’t yet read them. I ended up missing out on time with my guided reading groups when I was visiting the independent groups to remodel appropriate material use. Eventually, they got the hang of it and could help each other, but it took a lot of practice. Out of this struggle, I came up with the idea to create visual direction displays for my multisensory sight word centers.
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Why Use Visual Direction Displays?
Visual direction displays include simple, step-by-step directions with symbols as well as words to guide students. I still model each sight word center extensively whole group the first few times we use it, including having students model correct and incorrect ways to complete the activity. After that, I can put out the necessary materials, put up my visual directions signs in a book stand, and walk away! Students can reference the symbols and words and will know exactly what to do. This leads to far fewer interruptions over at my guided reading table! (Don’t have book stands? Grab two on Amazon for less than $10!)
How Can I Differentiate Sight Word Centers?
One of my favorite features of these sight word centers is that I can print out the visual direction signs once and use them again and again. As the year goes on, I simply switch out the words my students are practicing, gradually increasing the difficulty. I can also easily differentiate for readers of varying levels by color coding my word cards. Grab some sharpies and index cards and create your own word cards, or find an editable version of these cute polka dot color-coded sight word cards in my TPT store. I like to keep things consistent by printing one set for my word wall and another for my word work bins.
What If My Students Can Read Very Few Sight Words?
If your entire class or a group of your students are not yet proficient with many sight words, they can still complete these centers independently. In fact, these centers may be just what they need! The key is starting small. Begin with a stack of just three or four cards at the sight word center. These can be very simple words like I, a, am, the, he, she, and it if needed. Go over these words repeatedly during your small group time. Make sure your students can read them consistently before introducing them for independent center practice. Then, gradually teach and add in one new word every few days. In a few weeks, they will be practicing with a good sized stack of sight words and the repeated practice of previously taught words will help those words to stick!
Looking for additional tips on how to keep your learning centers running smoothly? Check my tips for stress-free learning centers! You may also be interested in storage solutions for multisensory word work materials.