Vocabulary assessment is ongoing and necessary when teaching sight words

Vocabulary assessment is an ongoing and necessary part of teaching sight words with word walls. But how do you do a sight word assessment for word walls?

Using word walls to teach sight vocabulary and content area vocabulary has revolutionized my teaching. Words must always, always be practiced, used, and assessed regularly. But how does that work?

Subject Area Word Walls

Words on my math word walls are assessed both formally on tests and informally each day when we play games with the words.

The words for learning math terminology stay up all year but will be moved around frequently as a memory activity and when we need to emphasize or revisit words which are already on the wall.

Missing words on this math word wall

Math word wall with missing words which have been pulled for intensive study.

and this one

have been pulled and placed in a separate area for more intensive study.

Science and social studies words, plus (hopefully!) words on walls in art, music, and PE, probably will not stay on the wall all year. These are generally assessed at the end of a unit, then taken down. It is a good idea to place them in a notebook or photo album for later review, however.

Sight Word Walls

Word walls used for teaching Dolch sight words and other sight vocabulary must be assessed more specifically, and words are taken down when everyone (or almost everyone) knows the words that are on the wall. So vocabulary assessments must be done more carefully and individually.

Disclaimer: These assessments were used for the sole purpose of managing the words on my word walls. No state tests were harmed in this process!

To assess words on walls containing Dolch or Fry words, I printed out a copy of each list in large print for each child to read, generally while the others were busy doing art projects related to instruction such as pictures for the Dolch art paragraphs.

On a separate copy in smaller print, I placed a tally mark beside each word every time it was missed.

When we finished, I looked at the list and took down words having only one tally mark, placing them in notebooks for later review. When the wall contained fewer than 10 or 12 words, I moved them to the classroom door for intensive work and put up the next list of sight words.

Other Sight Words

In order for children to learn the recommended 1000 words per year, there are going to have to me more sight words than just the Dolch or Fry words.

An easy way to start is to form new words with prefixes and suffixes. Other natural "spin-off" word walls could be:

Color words

Separate walls for nouns and verbs

Number words

Descriptive words

Favorite words

Funny or silly words



Holiday and/or seasonal words

Partner reading words

To regularly assess the words on these walls, I printed them on a piece of paper, made a copy for myself, then used tally marks to determine which words to take down and place in a word book (notebook or picture album.)

Go to Teaching Reading to Children from Vocabulary Assessment

Go to Word Walls from Vocabulary Assessment

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Celebrating success is a big part of encouraging children - especially struggling readers. It's all about motivation , and success is such a powerful motivator that one of the goals of neuro cognitive schools is for every child to experience some kind of success every day.

Children love receiving awards and certificates, and in addition to creating the Double Hopper award for improved coordination, I created an award I called "Sight Word Stars" for mastery of the Dolch words. A friend created buttons which I presented to the children when they had learned 90% of the words.

Sight word button for rewarding mastery of Dolch sight words

Partner Reading Words

Here are examples of the words my second graders found for our word wall from partner reading:


We worked on a set of 30 words on cards for one week before placing them on the word wall for further practice and going on to the next set of words.

The same procedure could be used for struggling readers at any grade level and can be adapted to other subject area words as well.

A Year of Sight Words

These second grade sight words can be used to fill your word walls for an entire year. They are the categories I used to build word walls for one year with second grade students as Title I reading specialist.