How I Taught My Kids to SPELL the FIRST 100 SIGHT WORDS!

Do your students have to pass a spelling test that includes the first ONE HUNDRED sight words? Mine did! If you, too, are responsible for teaching your first graders to spell a hundred sight words, then this post is for you!

Here are five steps to teach your class to read, spell, and write sight words—no matter how many they have to learn!

First, let me explain about the testing process in my district at the time I wrote this blog. The weekly spelling tests don’t count at all on the first-grade report card! The only thing that counts is the gigantic, one-hundred-question spelling test they take at the end of each trimester. (My district says they must keep retaking it each trimester until they pass or until the school year ends, whichever comes first.)

I don’t mind telling you that I was nervous to give this test! I was advised to spread it over four days because it is so long. And yes, one of my students had a difficult time following along and needed extra encouragement. The poor little sweetheart just wasn’t ready for this task, although, in the end, she actually DID meet the minimum district benchmark for November of 35 words!

However… the REST of the class did not really get restless- probably because they were feeling so successful! In fact, they were actually enjoying themselves as I dictated the words and wanted to keep going on to the next set each day when I finished! I was so surprised, I nearly fell over! The truth is that most of my first graders did very well with the test- and that was waaaaay back in November!  (Remember, I am teaching a first/second-grade combination class, so only half of my class needed to take this test.)

I haven’t yet given the test again for the second trimester, but most of my kids already passed the district benchmark for the year of 80 out of 100 words spelled correctly back in November! Only three out of the nine did not meet the benchmark on the first try! My lowest one got 48/100 correct, and the following lowest scores were 74 and 76. The rest of the scores were 84, 89, 94, 94, 95, and 95.  That’s an average score of 72.7 points on the very first try before the end of the first trimester.

And so, looking back, what did I do to make that happen?

How to Teach Your First Graders to Spell One Hundred Sight Words

1. Sing and Spell the Sight Words – Daily and Methodically

Since I started teaching first grade, I have used my HeidiSongs Sight Words videos to actually teach spelling! That’s different from how I used them before in Kindergarten! In Kindergarten, I really focused on using the songs to teach the children to read the words. If they memorized the spellings as well, I figured that was just frosting on the cake for a Kindergartener!

So, every morning, we sing the Sight Word Songs for the words that are on our spelling list each week. I follow our team leader’s first-grade pacing guide to stay on track with my fellow first-grade teachers. We do all the movements, and then I ask the children to tell me the word and repeat its spelling after the song is over. After we have sung the song for each word at least once or twice, we review the words from the previous week and/or take requests for the children’s favorite songs and review those.


I am so thankful that one of my WONDERFUL teammates took our entire district list of 100 sight words that the children must learn to spell and paced them all out on a first-grade pacing guide for us so that we would get to all of them (and put the word families in there, too!) Now, when I’m making my spelling list, all I need to do is check the pacing guide. Hooray! Click here to find a free First Grade Pacing Guide.

2. Write the Words as the Songs Play

Sometimes, it can be challenging for kids to make the connection from the song to the written word, so I make sure to teach that explicitly. On Mondays and Tuesdays, we learn to sing the songs and repeat the spellings aloud after the song has finished. On Wednesdays, after we sing, we write the words on dry-erase boards after we finish singing our songs, just like the activity in the video below. The only difference is that we don’t necessarily do it first thing in the morning! (Click here to read the post on this!)

We also practice writing any words that appear on the spelling list that we may not have recorded as spelling songs at this time. I do try to think of something that will help the children remember the spellings of the words when there isn’t a song. Those are always the ones that trip them up!  If the word fits into a phonics spelling pattern that is covered in our Phonics collection, then I have them review that song as well.

3. Use the Words in Their Writing

I include dictation sentences as a part of their spelling tests each week, and the sentences always include the sight words from the spelling list, of course! On Thursdays, we get out those dry erase boards again and this time, we practice writing the words within sentences. Whenever the children cannot remember how to spell a word, I remind them to think of the song, and then we spell it slowly aloud while they write it into their sentence. This step is CRUCIAL, because otherwise they may not think to transfer what they’ve learned into the real life situation of writing sentences.

4. Review the Songs and Words OFTEN!

Whenever the opportunity arises to use a spelling song when we are writing ANYTHING at all, I use it. I mention the songs as a reference tool frequently for the children to remind them that this is what they are used for. They are a tool to help them write and spell well. Anytime a math or language arts concept comes up that I know we have a song for, I start singing it for the children. I’ll ask them if they remember, and try to associate the song with the task at hand. I think that this helps a lot! If you can’t apply what you are learning, what good is it?

5. Encourage Families to Practice with the Videos at Home

I know that it is not possible for all families to have the videos, but our YouTube channel has some that are free to watch! You can also subscribe to our HeidiSongs Video Streaming Site and watch on any device with internet. The more that they watch, listen, and move, the better they will do and the faster they will learn. Every year, I tell parents about our Video Streaming Site so they can subscribe. I can assure you that it makes a huge difference! They can certainly learn without it- but everything goes much FASTER and easier when they are practicing at home.

If you’d like a copy of the list of 300 first grade sight words that my district uses,click here! Please note that my kids only have to SPELL the first 100, and READ the second and third.


– Heidi

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