Thursday, March 26, 2015

"Fast Track Words"

Many of my Reading Intervention students over the years have been boys, and a large number of them have been very keen on riding BMX or Motocross (‘dirt’) bikes.
As many of them have difficulty remembering words that they have not seen often or frequently, they can become discouraged and unmotivated (usually they would rather be outside riding their bike than practising their reading skills anyhow).
I had to come up with an idea to motivate them to practise Sight Words, to give them experience of success and build their confidence in a way they could relate to and without taking too much of their valuable relaxation time after school.
Fast Track Words was the solution I found; you are welcome to use this if you have a child who may relate to the idea*.

You just need to copy off some “Fast Track Words” lists (one- or two-sided ) and to make a booklet of 4-5 A4 pages (copy the cover onto one page and fold them all in half to make the book). If you have different coloured paper for the pages, this can make it more attractive. The child’s name is written on the front, and he can decorate the cover if he likes.
Here is a cover you can print (instructions for stapling the booklet are in the blog post before this one)

Fast Track Words booklet cover to print
About Fast Track Words.
The idea of “fast track” words is to build up a bank of words that are quick to recognise – Sight Words.
When a person reads a word for the first time, it takes longer to process the word, i.e. to “track” through the brain.
Each successive practice of the word, if frequent enough, will form stronger neural pathways so that recognition of the word becomes faster and more automatic.
The analogy for the child is the idea of riding their bike through a paddock or field: the first few times are slow as there are stones, long grass, sticks etc. in the way. Each time they ride along the same way, they wear a track through the paddock, becoming smoother and better formed, so it becomes easier and faster. When we begin to learn a word, it takes a while to get through our brain, to be recognised, and to get out again; each time we practise, it wears a track through our brain and becomes faster and easier, just like a bike track!
When children build up a large enough bank of Sight Words, their reading becomes faster, easier and more fluent, so it should be more enjoyable.
“Fast Track Words’ encourages children to build up their Sight Word vocabulary and to gain recognition for words they already know.
Beginner readers may start with basic words such as their name, Mum, Dad, cat, zoo etc., and gradually build up the collection of words they know well and can read confidently.
The idea is to consolidate words they already know or almost know, not to introduce words that are too challenging (those will need pre-practice).
The chosen words are written on the Fast Track list (you can start with 6-12 ‘easy’ words on a one-sided list so the child doesn’t feel overwhelmed).
Fast Track Words list to print
The child reads the words each day, and each word read correctly and quickly receives a tick (check). 
When a word has 5 ticks, it can be written in to the Fast Track book. Use coloured pens or pencils to make the word more memorable.
The child can illustrate the words in the book or you can add stickers or stamps or decorate the pages if you like (though most of my students are not interested in embellishments – they just like the list of words to grow!).
The book can be looked through from time to time, to revise the ‘known’ words (as these children may often forget words they don’t see frequently); this also reinforces the progress of their learning with tangible evidence.

 When a book is full, it’s easy to start a new one. Keep the old ones to later remind them of how far they have progressed!

*These printables are free for your personal/educational use.

Next Week: printable Easter Sight Words board game.

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