Helping children unlock their ability to read is probably one of my favourite things about teaching. Reading is a complex process that requires the use of many different strategies and skills. Being able to recognise sight words is an important skill for an emerging reader.
Why are sight words important?
Funnily enough, as the name suggests, the goal of sight words is for your child to recognise these words on sight. Many sight words don’t follow basic phonic principles so they can’t be sounded out. Knowing a selection of words on sight means that beginning readers do not need to decode every. single. word. Decoding every single word affects the fluency of reading and fluency is key to comprehending what is being read. Being able to recognise words on sight also promotes reader confidence.
How can you help your child to learn their sight words without it feeling like rote learning? Here are 15 fun and playful activities for sight word practice.
Learning Sight Words With Manipulatives
I Spy Bottle
This is a fabulously portable activity that is super simple to make. Fill a dried-out water bottle with rice and sparkles. Write sight words onto small pieces of card and insert into the bottle. Kids have to shake the bottle up to uncover different words. A great activity to keep in the car so that your children can practice their sight words en route to swimming lessons, piano lessons, etc.
TRY THIS TUTORIAL: DIY I Spy Activity Bag
Write letters on the side of Duplo pieces. Children can connect the pieces to create words. A great way to highlight letter formation as well. Make sure to use long pieces for the “tall” letters (like k, l, t) and the letters with ‘tails’ (like y, g, and p.) Use the smaller pieces for letters that only have a “body” (like a, e, c, o.)
Magnets are always a favourite in the classroom. When teamed with a whiteboard, this is a great way for children to practice “read it, build it, write it.”
Children read the word aloud. They build it with magnets and then write it. This would be a great activity to organise on the fridge door. Your little reader can practice whilst you get on with organising dinner.
Learning Sight Words Through Sensory Play
An oldie but a goldie. Get your reader to trace their sight words into the playdough, using a finger or a paddle pop stick.
They could also roll the playdough into logs and form the letters of the sight words. Lots of fine motor development happening at the same time!
Here’s a super simple recipe if you need to stock up on playdough.
Paint in a Bag
Squirt some poster paint into a sandwich bag. Seal the bag and cover with duct tape to ensure it is sealed tightly. Give your reader a cotton bud and let them trace their words into the paint. Watch the words disappear!
Cover a baking tray in shaving cream and let your child use their “finger pencils” to write their sight words.
Paint with Water
A no-mess activity. Equip your child with a container of water and a paintbrush. Let them “paint” their words on the exterior of the house, on the driveway, on the fence… This is also a great activity for bath time if the clock has beaten you and you didn’t manage to fit in sight word practice in the afternoon madness.
Learning Sight Words Through Movement
Chalk and Trampoline
Get your reader to write their sight words in chalk on the trampoline. They have to jump on the word that you call out. A great way to get kids to use up their energy whilst completing their homework.
Visit the AUSLAN Signbank and get your children to spell their sight words using finger spelling.
Have your child write their sight words on index cards or scraps of paper. Lay them out on the floor and play Twister. “Put your left hand on the word ‘from.'” You could also play this with chalk on the driveway.
Learning Sight Words With Games
One of the most popular sight words games I’ve used in a classroom. Children choose a card from a pile of sight words. If they can read the word, they keep the card. Interspersed through the pile are some BANG! cards. If you draw a BANG! card, you have to put all your cards back into the central pile. The person at the end of the game with the most cards, wins. I first saw this ideas over at K3 Teacher Resources.
Cut out some fish shapes. Write sight words on the fish and place a paper clip on each fish. Create a “fishing rod” with a ruler, string and a magnet and kids can “fish” out the sight words they recognise or the words that you specify.
Another oldie but a goldie. Write sight words twice onto pieces of card. Turn all cards word-side down. Readers have to find matching sight words.
Create a bingo card with a list of sight words. As you call out a word, your reader has to locate it and cover it on their game board. (This is a fun one to rope all family members into!)
Sight Word Sticks
Write all sight words on some craft sticks or paddle pop sticks. Place them in a jar and your little one has to pull out a stick and read the word. To add another level of fun, set a timer. See how long it takes for your reader to read all the sight words. See if they can beat their record each time.
The key to learning sight words is to practise, practise, prastice. And then repeat. And repeat again. Feel free to vary your prompts. You don’t need to be continually asking “Where is the word ‘the?’ Where is the word ‘from?’You can help your child identify the patterns in words and the way words work by asking things like,
“Find me a word ending with -ey.”
“Where is a word starting with the sound th-.”
“Find me a three letter word beginning with b-.”
The key is to have fun!
See it in Action
What sight word activities do your kids enjoy doing at home?
More literacy ideas for kids:
- 21 Questions to Improve Reading Comprehension
- How to Get the Most Out of the Library
- How to Get Started with Coding for Kids
Images: Shannon Wong-Nizic