Teaching Sight Words

The Sight Word Turtles are located here and are available for kindergarten and first grade. They are aligned with the Open Court decodable books.

The Turtles are a way of organizing high frequency words to make them fun for students. For teachers, they can be used to assess student knowledge of sight words. For example, Mario is on Turtle #3, Nancy is on Turtle #4.

Each week, use the weekly homework sheets to assign 4 words for students to learn. Print the corresponding turtle on the back of the homework.

Some teachers have students color in the words once students are able to read them. I did have students color the words when I taught kindergarten and then put these on the wall. In first grade I wouldn’t have students color the turtles because I wanted them to keep practicing previous weeks words even if they had already them correctly. Struggling readers would know a word one week but then forget it the next.

The parent reports are a form letter designed to reduce teacher workload and maximize instructional time. You can assess students right from the form or use the sight word turtles and then circle the words students read quickly and send the form home to parents. Using this regularly holds students and parents accountable to student learning.

35 Responses to “Teaching Sight Words”

  1. gpine Says:

    I don’t recognize any of the titles of Decodeable Books associated with the turtles. Last week we read two decodeables in the same week. Do we have a different version of Open Court?

  2. opencourt Says:

    Thank you for your comment.

    Could you be more specific about which grade level you teach, what unit you’re on, what edition of Open Court you are using and which turtle you’re looking at?

    My guess is that you may using a different edition than I have Turtles for. I do provide a blank turtle for you to fill in your own words. You could also e-mail me a list of words and let me know with what unit/grade/edition they align and I’ll upload them.

    Also, when there are too many words to fit on one Turtle then the words are fit as best as possible and spread out over multiple turtles.

  3. Kimmy Says:

    I went on the Open Court Resources page and found the turtles for
    learning sight words. Does anyone use these? I was thinking about
    using them, but I was curious how other teachers are using them. I
    would like to give the students new sight words when they have
    mastered the previous ones instead of giving all the children new
    words each week; however, it will make it more difficult for those
    students when reading the decodable books. Any ideas? Suggestions
    you would like to share with me?

  4. opencourt Says:

    As you say, if students are not keeping up with the Turtle words then they will
    not be able to read the decodable books with much success. The key component of the turtle words are the weekly assessments and the parent letters. If you send these home to parents the idea is that you get the parent support so that students do learn the four words per week.

    When students don’t learn all of them, and there will be some students who don’t, I focus on learning Turtle #1 (or whatever turtle they’re on) as well as the four new words for that week.

  5. Kerri Says:

    Here’s what we do…make 20 copies of sight words (or however many students you have). At our school they are introduced by unit and story. Cut them out and laminate them. Then punch a hole in the corner of each one. This is something that a parent or volunteer can do. Each new word a student is introduced to can be placed on their ring that can connect to a backpack or binder that has a zipper. The kids can then take them home to practice. By the end of the year the rings are pushing to burst and the kids are proud that they can read each one!

  6. Kari Says:

    Kimmy asked for suggestions on using the turtles. I make one copy of each turtle and post them all along the left hand side of a bulletin board. Using a die-cut machine, I punched out one green turtle for each student for each OCR turtle. As the students learn to read an entire sight word turtle, I write their names on the turtle cut-outs and place them next to the OCR ones. My bulletin board is called “It’s a Turtle Race!” The kids get really excited, and it creates a sense of competition (just to motivate the unmotivated) to see who can read the most turtles. My students beg me to call them next to read a turtle. One more thing, after a student has successfully read the words on a turtle, the entire class freezes and says, “Joey, you rock!” (Of course, you could change the class saying to something like “Nice job!”) The student then receives a prize (that costs me about 5 cents). It’s a big to-do in my class. Hope this helps!

  7. Jonathan Says:

    Kari, this is great! Thank you so much for sharing this.

  8. Anna Says:

    I just read through the posting for the turtles. Great ideas! Our kindergarten classes are called Bear Lake. So we try to turn things into a Bear theme. For this project, I thought I could use a bear eating honey from a beehive. Either the sight words are on the beehive or else on some bees swarming around the honey. What do you think?
    I love the sight words on a ring idea. Has that been successful for you?
    Mounting the turtles on the wall and moving students up as they learn the words is great as well. It’s a visual for the classroom!

  9. Jonathan Says:

    Anna, I don’t know if someone already suggested this, but instead of a turtle, you could make a honeycomb using hexagons with a word in each cell of the honeycomb.

  10. Rachel Says:

    Where do you get the stories, etc to go with the turtle sight words?

  11. Mathew Says:


    The stories are all from the Open Court Reading program which we are teaching. However, you could adapt the turtles—if you like the idea—to any basal reading series.

  12. michele Says:

    I have twins who just started school. One of them started in a class that had homework everynight and a spelling test on friday. I asked his teacher to send home two copies so they could both learn the sight words. This past Monday they had to add a new class and he was chosen to be in it. Now he wants to know where his homework is. I found this website tonight and downloaded everything. Do you know where I could find the books, not in bulk?

  13. patricia Says:

    I was wondering why your Turtles only go #5 but in weeks go to 25 for the homework. I didn’t count do they match up? First Grade new teacher

  14. Mathew Says:

    It’s been a long time since I aligned the Turtles. I believe that the turtles do go up to weeks 25. I’ve changed it so it now says that. However, even though the homework assigns four words a week the decodables may have more or less in each of them. There is also some catch your breath time embedded in the turtles to work with students who are behind.

  15. Sally Says:

    Where do you find the parent reports, form letter?

  16. Mathew Says:


    The parent reports are available for first grade on the first grade sight word turtle page.

  17. Sally Says:

    Thank you
    I was looking at the kindergarten page

  18. Elena Gruwell Says:

    I would like to know if you have the turtle sigh words in Spanish. (I am a kindergarten bilingual teacher and we used the OC decodable books last year).


  19. Mathew Says:

    No, Elena I don’t have the Turtle Words in Spanish at this time. If you could send me a list or a link to a list of Spanish sight words then I might be able to add them.

  20. sharyl Says:

    what is the difference between ocr 2000 and 2002. Does the 2002 version have different words?

  21. Mathew Says:


    2000 and 2002 probably have all the same words but they appear in the Open Court decodable books in a different order. If you don’t teach Open Court than either 2000 or 2002 will do for you.

  22. sharyl Says:

    Thanks!! I am teaching with the 2002 version for the frist time. definately a bit overwhelming!! Also, I find it a bit hard to follow.

  23. Jen Says:

    Just as Sharyl, I am teaching Kindergarten with the 2002 version for the first time this year and feel overwhelmed. I have my students from 8-1:30, and there are a lot of pull-outs during the day for special area classes, so, not knowing the program well, I don’t know what aspects of the program to make sure I cover during the limited time I have with my students each day. My administration gave me my schedule today, and I only have about 30 minutes each day for whole group reading instruction, and another 30 minutes to divide the class into reading groups to work with my 3 reading teachers. Any thoughts about what to make sure I cover in the 30 minute whole group time? Thanks!

  24. kathleen Says:

    I’m new to teaching Open Court. I am lacking some resources and have not received any kind of training to implement Open Court. I’m still discovering how to piece things together in the unit, while teaching. I would love if someone could tell me a couple things to clear my Open Court confusion!

    I have first grade. I have started Let’s Read! The basils are not used yet, right? It seems they start at Unit 7. Are students at this point only to read out of the Big Book with me? I also have a TON of printable books that were left to me. When are those to be started? When are sight words started?

    I am working with 40 minute blocks most days, some 60 minute blocks and some 20 minute reading blocks on others. Have any experts found a good way to pull out the best of the content provided by Open Court? The teacher’s manual is a little overwhelming and often, seems a bit disconnected for first graders.

    Thanks for any of your help you can provide!

    Thanks for your help!

  25. Mathew Says:


    You need at least a two hour block to teach the program. You can’t really pick and choose activities from it without leaving something out. I can’t say, for example, leave out teaching writing or leave out teaching comprehension. You’re correct that the anthology/basal comes about mid-year. The printable books (decodables) start almost immediately and go throughout the year. The manual says when to use which. They align with the blending and dictation so it’s important to use the right one at the right time. If you’ve missed the first ones I’d probably fill them in when you can and make sure to do the one that goes with the stories you’re on now.

    The students do read the big book with you but you’re also stopping here and there to model comprehension strategies and talk about skills.

  26. Mary Says:

    I love the turtles idea! What do you put on the homework sheets for them to do?

  27. Mathew Says:


    The homework sheets ask students to write the words several times. The sheets are available for first grade at http://www.turtlewords.net

  28. Sheryl Says:

    I will be using Imagine it! next year in second grade. Would turtles work for my kids who need more intervention? I don’t see anyone here talking about using this in grade 2, so am wondering. Has anyone ever tried using it with part of the class and not the rest? Or perhaps the whole class really could benefit? Any comments or ideas would be much appreciated. Thanks!

  29. Mathew Needleman Says:


    The turtles are designed for students who don’t know their sight words. By 2nd grades students should already know them. So, I wouldn’t use them whole class but they might be of use to students who are still struggling. Myself, by 2nd grade I simply used a partial list of Fry’s words (available on the “other word lists” page from http://www.turtlewords.net

    Also, these aren’t aligned with Imagine It decodables necessarily. The order of the words might be different.

  30. Lorna Says:

    How does 2000 and 2002 align with the 2005 edition?

  31. Mathew Says:

    I don’t know. The words are generally the same but the order of introduction tends to be different.

  32. Jo Says:

    Hi, I was wondering how I could enter in my own sight words. I tried saving the document to word but have been unsuccessful with typing in the information. Is there a blank document available?

  33. Mathew Says:

    A blank turtle is available from the web site http://opencourtresources.com/ocr/sight_words/index.html as a pdf file.

    You can write the words in once you print it. It’s not possible to edit in a word document because of the processing involved in formatting the text to fit in different sizes and in different spaces. You would need to use an image editor or handwrite the words.

  34. April Says:

    Is there weekly homework or Parent reports for kindergarten?

  35. Mathew Says:

    No, there isn’t.

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