Emergent readers' and writers' construction of sight words in kindergarten
This naturalistic inquiry provided a rich description of the complexities involved in learning sight words in a kindergarten classroom setting. The description was in the force of case studies that followed individuals' unique paths to understanding the reading and writing processes.
Data were collected on three case studies as they participated in classroom literacy activities. The daily Morning Message event was videotaped over 13 weeks. Case Studies were interviewed following journal writing and classroom reading activities to determine each student's understanding of sight word learning. Data were also collected during the Voyager phonemic awareness program and during center activities.
Three distinct phases of word learning were determined as known words were collected for each case study over a timeframe of four months. The collection of words was sorted for mode of use in isolation and in context, and whether used with group support, independently, or in assessment settings. Participants were assessed on three occasions using Clay's (2002) tasks of An Observation Survey of Early Literacy Achievement and a Morning Message Word Test, designed by the researcher to determine if students were able to read and write words and if words were becoming sight words.
Descriptions of case studies were analyzed in a cross case analysis that determined the similarities and differences of young learners coming to know sight words. Data revealed changes in behavior with words over three phases. Phases were characterized by exploration with words, confusions along with partial knowledge, and finally, revelations of students knowing what they knew as well as how to learn words.
Findings in this study both support and question results of previous studies reported in the literature. Individuals learned differently within the same classroom context. Emergent readers learned by reading and writing in combination and through repetition of words, patterns of language, and familiar contexts. Students learned sight words before knowing sounds of letters. Finally, if words are not applied in continuous text, young learners may have difficulty integrating their learning into the complex system of reading and writing.