How to Teach Sight Words in Fun (but Simple) Ways

From the earliest days of school, we begin to develop the techniques required to read. Sight words are the 220 words that a reader can readily recognize as soon as he or she sees them, without using phonics techniques. Learn how to teach sight words to young readers with these effective (and fun!) teaching strategies that work in the classroom and at home.

teach sight words to child using flashcard teach sight words to child using flashcard

Sight Word of the Week

One effective way to teach sight words is by making a sight word of the week. Using a list of sight words for kindergarten, focus on one word a week and feature it everywhere. Have students spell it on their way in, read it in context, write it on the board, form it with blocks, or any other creative way to get the word in front of them. Do a quick formative assessment at the end of the week to check for understanding. If you do one word a week, students will master at least 40 sight words by the end of the school year!

Sing a Sight Word

Kindergartners learn well with music. Once they've mastered the alphabet song, you can move on to songs that feature sight words. Make up your own songs, such as this one to the tune of Three Blind Mice.

T-H-E
T-H-E
Spell the word "the"
Spell the word "the"
The T and H make a /th/ sound
The E at the end makes an /e/ sound
That's how you spell the word "the"
It's T-H-E

If you don't want to make up your own song, take a look at the many sight word songs available online. Many teachers have gotten creative with their blends of sight words and music!

Sight Word Bingo

Games are a wonderful way to interest children while they learn. Generate Bingo cards that have sight words on them in place of numbers. Each card will have a different set of sight words. Distribute the cards among the children and tell them to mark a square that corresponds to one of the sight words that they are learning.

Air Spelling

Here's an activity that students can do anywhere! Write the sight word on the whiteboard in large letters, and spend some time having kindergartners trace the word in the air with their fingers. Return to this activity several times a day (possibly as a transition activity). Challenge students by erasing the word and having them spell without the whiteboard guide.

Sight Word Station

If you're setting up learning stations in the classroom, include a sight word station. It can focus on one sight word, a list of sight words or unfamilar sight words for advanced learners. Some ideas for the station include:

  • tracing sight words
  • writing sight words in different colors
  • table spelling sight words (tracing them with their finger on the table)
  • spelling sight words with magnet letters

You can have students practice reading the words to each other as well. Try setting up a sight word song for them to listen to through headphones as they work!

Sight Word Trading

Sight word trading is a fun game that gets students off their feet and interacting with each other. All you need are ten sets of flashcards from a list of about 20 words (or more if you have more students).

  1. Write or project the list of words on the board.
  2. Give each student all the flashcards of one word (for example, one student has all the "the" cards, another student has all the "like" cards, and so on).
  3. Tell students that they need to trade cards with classmates until they have a full list of words.
  4. Let them trade cards for a few minutes.
  5. When they're done, call out each word. Have students raise their hands if they have the word in their pile.

Now everyone has a full set of sight words — and they had to read them in order to trade them! This activity is best in the middle of a unit when students have some familiarity with the list of sight words.

Arm Tapping

Tactile or physical learners will appreciate the arm tapping technique. When teaching students a new sight word, have them touch their opposite shoulder as they say the word. Then have them tap their arm down to their wrist for each letter. For example, in the word "that," students touch their shoulder and say "that." They then tap their upper arm and say "T," then tap lower and say "H," then tap their forearm and say "A," then tap their wrist and say "T." Students then repeat the word.

Sight Word Running

Kindergartners learn best while they're moving! This is a fun activity if you've got lots of space and kids who like to run around.

  1. Make posters with one sight word each.
  2. Hang them in different parts of the classroom where they're easy to see.
  3. Have the whole class stand up (or a few volunteers).
  4. Read a word from the list out loud.
  5. The students run to the correct word on the wall.
  6. In unison, have them spell the word out loud.
  7. Read the next word and have them run to it.

This activity is easy to differentiate instruction based on student needs. If you have struggling readers in the class, have them watch a group of volunteers run to the words before trying it themselves. If your class has a lot of advanced readers, consider having them race to the correct word.

Sight Word Sentences

Once students know how to read their sight words, they should be able to use them. Use a sentence frame with familiar words and include the sight word in question. Then, switch the word with another sight word. For example:

  • I like to read.
  • I like to play.
  • I like to eat.
  • I like to run.

For extra practice, have volunteers come to the front of the class and pretend to do the actions from the sentence. This is a great way for English learners and struggling readers to associate meaning with sight words.

Sight Word Exit Tickets

Exit tickets are a great way to check understanding — but they don't always have to be written. Whenever your class enters or exits the classroom, have them orally spell one of the sight words from your list.

Improve Reading Skills With Sight Words

Students who can identify many sight words at the end of kindergarten go on to become successful readers. These teaching techniques help them accomplish that goal in a fun and educational way. Check out additional ideas for memorizing sight words that work for all elementary grades. Or, if you'd like to get students started early, try out these pre-kindergarten lesson plans for sight words.

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