24 Ways to Make Learning & Reading Sight Words Fun
Sight Words are needed to create phrases and sentences. After the kids have learned the first 24 sounds, it’s time to introduce Tricky Words!
Reading is complicated! Sight words are mostly irregular keywords that are not easy to blend or write by listening to the sounds. It’s helpful for children to learn tricky words if they look at the spelling and work out what is irregular or difficult. For example, talk about how ‘are’ starts with an ‘a’ and ends with an ‘e’…. but the only sound you hear is /r/! This helps to jog the memory. Eventually, they learn to recognize the words immediately. Often, the children really enjoy the idea that these words do not follow the rules… and they can be found on a special Word Wall!
Teachers often reference Fry’s Word List or the Dolch Word List. These lists contain high-frequency words – words that are most often seen in text. The first 100 words in the Fry List make up 50% of the words that children read; but, many are decodable with the 42-44 main sounds of the transparent alphabet … they follow the rules and can be sounded out. (e.g., on, and, at, can, if, her, see, did, part)
Jolly Phonics has a list of 72 Tricky Words. These words have irregular spellings and need to be taught with a “look and say” approach.
Sight Word List
I have chosen to include a few decodable words. (e.g., sister, back, will, too) on my list of sight words. Once the children learn more about digraphs, magic ‘e,’ and alternative spellings. (e.g., will (double consonants), play & away (/ay/ spelling of /ai/), etc.) they will be able to sound these words out. I use a Desk Chart Sight Word List of 45-90 words for children to reference when writing.
The main aim is to get the kids to read and spell tricky words with automaticity and fluency.
- 1/4 of the children with good visual memory will learn these tricky words very quickly.
- 1/2 of the children will continue to learn steadily.
- Always be on the lookout for up to 1/4 of the children who may struggle… they learn slowly and need extra practice and review.
How Can We Make Learning to Recognize Sight Words Fun?
- Sight words are usually presented in a set order so that they can be taught in a structured way.
Actions trigger the memory! Remember to have fun. Be daft! MOTIVATE!
Introduce a new sight word. Talk about it. What do you think it says? Why? What are the letter names?
1. Word Wall
Post that tricky word on the WORD WALL so that the children have an opportunity to practice or copy it if needed. Suggestion: Create Sight Word Flash Cards on cover stock.
2. Wear a Baseball Cap
Wear a baseball cap. Put a tricky word in an old name tag holder. The kids will try to read the word! Sight Words Sorting Cards are a great size for this activity. I found a 6×3 grid works very well.
3. What’s My Word?
Wear several tricky words on a special hat! Get a unique hat at Halloween. Put Velcro on the hat and the sight word cards. Switch words to review words … or when you are learning a new tricky word. Sight Words Sorting Cards are a great size for this activity. Words printed in a 6×3 grid work very well.
4. Personal Word Wall
Create a Personal Word Wall for the students to reference. Review the list often. When the kids are writing stories, remind them to check the spelling of sight words.
5. Say it as it Sounds
Most children find it difficult to remember irregular spellings. 20% of these children find it extremely hard as they have poor memory skills. These children benefit from different techniques. “Say it as it Sounds” means pronouncing each word in a way that will remind the child of the irregular part. (e.g. Mon-day ; k-nife – /k/-/n/-/ie/-/f/-/ee/)
Mnemonics are a fun way to remind children of the spelling of words they find especially difficult to remember. Create class mnemonics!…. (e.g., laugh – laugh at ugly goats hair…people – people eat omelets people like eggs)
Children can also use an analogy. Learners can link sight words to opposite words/related objects/cause and effect/a group/a problem and solution, etc., or pictures. Later, students can use more sophisticated spelling patterns.
(e.g. down : up / comb : hair / right : correct / fire: burn / father : family / tired : sleep).
8. Word Sorts
Use hula hoops, swim rings, divided trays from the dollar store, or colored paper as a sorting base. Provide a small group of children with selected sight word cards. Ask them to sort words. Talk about how they sorted them. Ask, “What are your sorting rules?” “Why did you sort them that way?” Get them to think about their thinking. Sight Words Sorting Cards are a great size for this activity.
9. What Do We Know?
Read the sight words together. Say it! Spell it! Talk about it! What do we know? What does it start with? Look for letter patterns. Mark the part that is different. If one way of sounding doesn’t work, try the other. (e.g., to, no)
For example – Jolly Phonics Group 1: I, the, he, me, be, she, we, was. to, do
- Talk about how I is a single capital letter.
- Spell the word (i.e., the -t-h-e). Talk about the /th/ and the schwa sound /ə/.
- What is the same in he, me, be, she, we? What should the ‘e’ say? It should say the short e /e/ sound…but then we would say these words with the ending sound like the /e/ in bed! This ‘e’ has the long vowel sound /ee/. He, me, she, we, & be … all rhyme with bee!
- Was – It starts with a /w/ sound. The /a/ does not say /a/… it says /o/. The ‘s’ makes a /z/ sound! What would it sound like if we used the sounds we know? /w/- /a/ – /s/?
- To and do – We know the first sound in each word. The /o/ does not make a short vowel sound like the ‘o’ in pot. The ‘o’ makes an /oo/ sound like in the word too. Say each word.
10. Here, There, Where?
Here, There, Where is a gym warm-up activity. The teacher posts Tricky Word Flash Cards on the gym walls or simply prints sight words that have been taught on paper before the activity. The children stand in the middle of the gym… the word “where” is posted on the floor. The teacher calls “here.” The children run to that word, stand in front of it and read ‘here.’ The teacher calls ‘because’ (and may hint that it starts with a /b/ – because, or state that it is a long word). Kids run across the gym to the word, stand facing the word, and read, ‘because.’ If the teacher says “where,”… the children run to the middle of the gym. Begin with one tricky word per wall. Use a maximum of 2 – 3 words per wall, depending on the size of the room.
11. Play Hopscotch
Using outdoor chalk, print tricky words on the hopscotch squares. The students can create play rules.
Variation 1: Player ONE throws a small stone or a beanbag into a square. He must then say the tricky word (help the player if needed) and then hop on one foot to the first empty square. In pairs 4-5 and 7-8, remember to jump with both feet. (Be sure to skip the square your marker is on.) At 10, hop with both feet, turn around, and head back to the start. Remember to pick up your marker and repeat the tricky word. Chalk a mark on the box with the word you read. Hand the stone/beanbag to the next player. All players will complete the game. Variation 2: The player only marks the square if he can read the words without help. The player with the most marks wins the game.
12. Create Floor Shapes: Lily Pads, Snowflakes, Flowers, Animals
Print tricky words on the floor shapes. Play games like, “Who can find the word, ‘have?” Or, with a few students, ask everyone to hop to the word “there.” If the child is ready, then you can ask him to spell the word closest to him.
13. Stair Words
Put a word on the stairs or following a path in the classroom. Read the word to move to the next stair or step.
14. Musical Words
Place the word shapes around the room. Dance to the music! When the music stops, the kids must read the word closest to them. Help from a friend is OK. Optional: You can tell the kids to access their “helpline” or “ask a friend” option. But they have to repeat the word.
15. Beach Ball Toss
Get a beach ball. Print tricky words on a 2″ x 2″ piece of paper. (or use the words in Sight Word Printing & Word Sort Cards) Cut 5 pieces of clear plastic 2.5″ x 2.5″. Tape three sides of the clear plastic to the ball to create 5 pockets. Place 2 or more words in each pocket. Toss the beach ball. When a child catches the ball, he needs to read the word closest to his body. If the teacher catches the ball, (s)he may move a word forward in a pocket.
16. Egg Hunt
Get plastic eggs from a Dollar Store. Place tricky words into the eggs. Have the students go on an egg hunt. When they find an egg, the students return to their spot on the carpet. Each child reads the word that was hidden in the egg. (Provide a friend’s support, if needed, or look at the difficult word and talk about what you know.) Words from the large desk charts work well for this activity.
17. Play Concentration
Print two copies of the Sight Word Playing Cards. Use 9 pairs to start. Match the words and read them to get the pair!
- Place about 9 mixed-up pairs of the sight words face down on the table or floor. (i.e., 6 across in 3 rows)
- One student will turn up two cards.
- If the two cards turned up do not match, turn them over again!
- The next student turns up two more cards. If the first one looks like a card that has been previously turned over… can you match it?
- Continue to play until all 9 pairs have been found. Then, increase the number of pairs with student’s ability.
- The player with the most pairs wins the game!
18. Play Go Fish
Object of the Game:
- Object: Collect all four colors of one word.
- Print a sight word card deck with 52 cards… 13 tricky words per deck x 4…. one of each color using something like the Sight Word Playing Cards.
How to Play:
- Deal out 7 cards to 2 or 3 players. If 4 or 5 people are playing, only deal out 5 cards each. The rest of the cards go face-down in a pile.
- Then each player can look at the cards in their hand. If player 1 has the word “two” in his cards, he may look at any other player and then say, “Cathie, give me any cards that say “two”.
- Cathie must hand over all of her cards that say “two”. If Cathie has no “two” cards, she will say, “Go Fish!” and player 1 will take the top card off the center pile to add to his cards.
- If Cathie had one or more cards that said “two”, she would have to give those cards to player 1. Player 1 can continue to ask for cards until he is told to “Go Fish”.
- If a player gets 4 of a kind, he places the cards face up on the table and continue to play until he is stopped.
- The game ends when all 13 words have been won. The winner is the one with the most words.
- If a player is without cards during the game, she may draw from the center pile and continue her turn. If no cards are left in the center pile, that player must wait until others have finished.
19. Word Search
Use a magazine or newspaper. Objective: Find sight words that you have been taught in the printed text, then highlight the words that you know. How many words can you find? Note: Some children may benefit from the printed text being enlarged.
- Place the gameboard into a sheet protector.
- Then put 9 word-cards that have been taught, face down on the squares.
- Player ONE has X playing cards. Player TWO has O playing cards.
- The first player turns a card over. If it is correctly read, a marker is placed on that spot. If the word is unknown, the second player or helper will read the word with the player. Then, the card is placed back on the board … face down.
- The second player turns a word over.
- The game continues until someone gets three in a row… horizontal, vertical, or diagonal.
21. Sight Word Bingo
- There are several Game Board variations for 3 in a row, 4 in a row, or 5 in a row BINGO games. Choose the ones that suit your students.
- Use one colored set of Sight Word Cards.
- Play as a class, or divide into small groups.
- Play continues as a BINGO game. The caller puts the deck of cards face down and then turns the top card over and calls out the sight word. If a player has the sight word, a bingo chip may be placed on the word. Play continues until a player gets 3, 4, or 5 in a row. (depending on the game board)
- The winner of the game may choose to be the caller for the next game.
- Note: A bingo chip can be a coin, a small block, a counter, or a piece of paper.
22. Sight Word Jenga Game
Add one (or two) sight words to your Jenga Blocks. Play the game as normal, except when you pull a block; you have to read the word(s) on it before adding it to the top of the tower.
23. Sight Word Twister
Play Twister as you normally would… but instead of colors, put tricky words on the circles. You have to read the words as you land on the designated color.
24. Sight Word Connect Four
Use small circle stickers. Print sight words on the stickers. Place the stickers on one side of the playing pieces. Turn the markers over so that you cannot see the word. As each player picks up a marker, it is turned over to reveal the word. The player must read each tricky word before the play continues. Four in a row wins the game!
Sight Words – Teach. Play. Learn. Review.
P.S. Many of these ideas were collected over the years by fellow teachers and parents who shared their ideas and strategies in class and online … thank you for sharing!
Learn more! Discover 26 Ways to Spell Tricky Words!
Teachers and parents can create all of these activities at home. I invite you to share an idea with fellow parents and teachers in the comments below.