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Differentiating Sight Words: Google Sheets

If you teach primary students, you know that sight words are a big area of focus for students learning to read. Learning to read sight words or *high frequency words is an important skill for our early readers. This method can be used with any list that your school requires or you prefer to use. I have even modified and expanded my own school resource.

Although we have goals for each grade level, students learn at their own pace. I can have a student that is just beginning to learn them all the way up to students who can read the entire 2nd grade word list. Therefore, differentiating for students is clearly important. I use Google Sheets to stay organized while moving students toward their individual goals.

TItle Image Sight words

Step 1: Create a Master List Google Sheet

Add all the words from your lists in columns. I recommend adding the words in the same order as whatever assessment sheet you have to make data entry easier in the beginning. You will want to add all levels below and above your grade level to accommodate all learners. You could add each on a new tab or leave several columns in between, whichever works best for you.

Google differentiating 1

Tip: Create a folder and call it “Sight Words” or “High Frequency Words” so you can always find this sheet.

Step 2: Create a new folder for your class.

I don’t know how organized your Google Drive is, but I have a folder created for each year and that class of students. Within that folder I create a folder called “Sight Words”.

Step 3: Make a copy of the Master Word List for each student.

Just right click to “Make a Copy” and then right click to “Rename”. I rename each file using the student’s name.

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Step 4: Mark off the words that student has already mastered.

Unnamed image (1)You can just input it as you assess them and skip the paper/pencil all together (or go old-fashioned and just mark off the words the student knows already). Add the date on the top of the column.

Step 5: Create another sheet titled “Sight Word Lists” and put it in the same folder.

The top row of this sheet will be all your student names. Choose 5-10 words that each student has yet to master and list those under each students’ name. These will be their focus words under they master them.Sight Word Lists

Step 6: Print 3 copies of the student lists.

One copy gets taped in their folder to practice at home. One copy is for you (or a classroom aide) to check student mastery each day. And the last copy can be used by the student during center time. This way they are practicing words that are VERY specific to them.


Update lists as students master them. Some students learn the entire list in a day or two, other students take a week. The nice part about it being in a Google Sheet is that I can easily take the lists home and update anywhere!

Re-check every so often. After students have mastered around 50-100 words this way, re-check them all. This helps you know if they are retaining them or if you need to go back and review a few!

Make it work for each student. Some students will practice at home, some will not. Try to make extra practice time happen for those that don’t. They could have a buddy or a parent volunteer practice. Some students may struggle with 10 words, so give them 5 at a time to make it less over-whelming! My students LOVE getting a new list, so I make it attainable for everyone!

Any more ideas? List them below in the comments!

Need ways to practice and learn sight words? Check out some of these resources in my TPT store!

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