Of course sight word activities are not the only way to improve our students’ reading skills, but sometimes I feel we forget just how valuable they are to have in our teaching toolbox!
Before I get started sharing some super fun sight word activities that I know your students will love, I need to answer some questions that I get all the time from fellow teachers regarding sight words. I have a feeling you might have some of the same ones!
What is the difference between sight words and high frequency words?
Sight words are words that are common in print, but have irregular spelling and don’t lend themselves to be sounded out. Don’t you wish our students could sound every word out they come across in the English language? Me too. Would make our jobs much easier! Unfortunately that’s just not the case, so teaching young readers to memorize these words will help them become fluent readers because it’s just not possible to decode them.
A few examples of sight words are of, by, was, could, and again. Did you just try to sound any of those out? Good luck! 😉
On the other hand, high frequency words are also super common words found in text, but they are decodable. Here’s the catch, though – they follow spelling rules that students may not learn until they’re much older and after they need to be able to read them. It’s important that we help our students memorize these words, as well.
A few examples of high frequency words are now, that, look, what, and his. See the difference? Eventually learning digraphs and blends is very helpful!
Why is teaching sight words an important part of teaching children to read?
I can assure you, the more sight words your young readers have memorized, the more confident they are going to be – especially if they tend to struggle with phonemic awareness, rhyming, and phonics.
I understand that teaching fluency is important too, but some of our more reluctant readers can really use a visit back to the basics spend time learning sight words. Otherwise it could really hold them back from becoming the fluent reader they are made to be!
You’ll also find that teaching sight words will help your children with their writing. They won’t get “stuck” on how to spell those common words we use every day, yet are unable to sound out.
How can I find more examples of sight words and high frequency words?
Many times the reading program used at your school will actually incorporate teaching sight words and give you a list to start with, such as Savvy Sight Words.
Two common high frequency word lists used today are the Dolch List and the Fry Sight Word List. Dr. Edward Dolch developed his list in the 1930’s. How cool is it that we still refer to that list nearly 100 years later? 🙂 Amazing!
The list is made up of 80% of the words found in a typical children’s book. Dr. Edward Fry developed his list in the 1950’s and was updated in the 1980’s. Although both lists share a large number of words, I would definitely recommend referring to both as you start your sight word activities!
The best way to learn to read, is to practice reading. In other words – to read…a lot. Reluctant readers don’t read very many words per day. They read an exponentially lower number of words than strong readers. Which means they are constantly falling behind. Find any way you can, to get these readers to read their sight words. If you are struggling to find books full of sight words, here are a few super simple and free sight word activities you can start with. They are also good for morning work, centers, or just about any time you’re needing an extra sight word activity! You may just have to round up a few household materials. 🙂
Find a small cookie sheet or baking pan. I would recommend starting with about 1 cup of salt to place on to the cookie sheet – you can adjust this amount depending on how big or small your sheet pan is! Next, locate a paintbrush.
Create a small list of 10-12 sight words you want to focus on first and write each of the words on an index card. Finally, have the student practice writing each sight word with their paintbrush into the salt. Encourage them to say the word aloud as they are writing.
Using a paintbrush will create less mess compared to using their finger (and less germs!), and it will also help them practice their pencil grip! This would be an excellent independent activity for morning work time or early finishers who are needing some extra sight word practice.
Sight Word Scrabble
You probably already have some form of an alphabet set that comes with individual letters. If not, Scrabble pieces work just as well! Create your list of sight words you want your students to practice. Following this, have the students choose a sight word card and build that same word using Scrabble tiles.
This is a super simple concept, but reading the word and building the word will help your students develop a deeper connection with the sight words.
Who doesn’t love a game of Bingo? 🙂 There are so many free online Bingo card generators out there. Get your list of sight words and create multiple different Bingo cards!
As you call out the sight words and students check their cards, be sure to display the word and read the word aloud as the students search. I would also recommend having the students repeat the word back to you as a class, even if they don’t have the word on their card. Repetition. Repetition. Repetition!
Sight Word Relays
I’m always looking for fun activities for my students to get up and moving – better yet, outdoors and moving! You could play a variation of this game in your classroom by writing sight words on your whiteboard and giving each student a matching sight word card to place on the board.
However, my favorite way to play is to do a little preparation beforehand and then head outdoors. Split the class into 2 teams. However many students are on each team is the number of sight word cards you will need to create. For example, if there are 10 students on each team you will need to come up with 10 different sight words you want to practice, but 20 total cards. Each team can practice the same 10 words, but each student needs their own individual card.
Write the sight words that you’re practicing on the sidewalk with chalk in a small area for both teams. I would recommend keeping the groups of words a fair distance apart from one another so the students aren’t right next to each other as they run to the sidewalk words. As the relay begins, each student will run a short distance with their sight word card, say the word aloud, and lay it on the matching word that’s written on the sidewalk.
Once that student returns, the next one on the team can run with their sight word card. The first team to match all of their sight word cards correctly wins. They will have so much fun with this little competition and won’t even realize they’re getting some physical exercise, too. 🙂 I would recommend revisiting all of the words before moving on, just to get in as much practice as possible!
Of course, a well-rounded reading program uses many other techniques and learning strategies such as looking at the pictures in the book to figure out what a word is, sounding out words, and skipping over difficult words and using the rest of the sentence to solve what that one specific word may mean.
But be sure to make time for teaching sight words and have fun with it! You’ll find they are amazingly easy to teach, and are an essential part of learning to read. I hope you have fun with these sight word activities and modify them however you need to better fit your classroom!