Oct 7, 2009

TRULY SPEAKING: Pop a Batch of Popcorn Words

Summary: My 5-year old niece is another language lover. She's learning to read via "popcorn words," or Dolch sight words. Here's how you can help the early readers you know and love to love language, too.

Over the weekend, I received a call from my sister's house: "Hey! How are you?" I said merrily into the phone after glancing at the number on the caller I.D. Silence greeted me.

But just before I got worried, I heard a faint directive in the background: "Say hello." I smiled and waited for my 5-year old niece to properly obey her mother.

"Hi, Kiki," she said faintly. (To all my nieces and nephews, I'm "Aunt Kiki.")

Though our conversation started out with shyness (she's just learning how to use phone etiquette like a Big Girl), it quickly became a lot of fun for both of us when we started talking about kindergarten. Language is a love my niece and I share. She was eager to tell me about her school's "libary," as well as to read me the first book she's checked out all by herself. *Melt!* I was gushy with pride.

As she read me her book, carefully sounding out each word she encountered (except for calendar, which she sounded out fine, but mistakenly emphasized the word's second syllable, making it unrecognizable to both herself and to me), she continued to pause at certain spots—"And: That's one of our popcorn words!"—stopping to share this news with proud excitement.

My sister later explained that "popcorn words" are what the kindergarten teacher is calling the Dolch sight words. Collected by Edward William Dolch, PhD., in the late 1930s and published for the teaching community a decade later, the sight words list contains commonly used words that are basic to the English language—words that "pop up" regularly in reading at all levels and that are often learned by sight by early readers (as opposed to the traditional method of sounding them out). Such words as a, I, in, is, me, my, go, look, and even multi-syllabic words like yellow and little are included in this list of over 200 words.

If you know an early reader whose literary vocabulary you'd like to expand, check out the sight words list for yourself. And check out Miss Renée's Kindergarten Pad for some fun ways to pop up learning with popcorn words in your home or classroom.

© KiKi Productions, Inc. 2009

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