Learning the sounds of letters and developing phonemic awareness and phonics skills are crucial steps in early reading. However, there are some words that can’t be sounded out and require a different approach. This is where sight words come in. Fun sight word activities draw on both kinaesthetic and visual learning and help develop fluency when reading.
What are sight words?
Sight words are words that students learn through memorisation. Often high-frequency words, students learn these words by sight – when you show a student a sight word, they should be able to read it back to you quickly, almost instantly.
There are two main kinds of sight words:
- Irregular words/Non-Phonetic Words— While words like ‘cat’ can be decoded phonetically (C-A-T), many words cannot be broken down in this way. For example, words such as you, of, buy, talk, or come cannot be decoded phonetically. These words need to be recognised automatically through memorisation.
- High-Frequency Words— Common words that are found regularly in the English language are known as high-frequency words e.g. like, go, and it. These words can be decoded, but the reading process will be smoother and more fluent if students can read them on sight.
Benefits of Learning Sight Words
As Literacy Online states: “It’s essential for young readers and writers to develop a sight vocabulary, that is, a store of words that they recognise automatically.”
Knowing common, or high frequency, words by sight makes reading easier and faster, because:
- The reader does not need to stop to try and sound out each individual word, letter by letter.
- Learning certain kinds of sight words enables children to devote their energy to decoding words that are more difficult.
- Sight words are confidence boosters.
- Having a store of sight words also helps learners to acquire further sight words.
- Proper fluency correlates with higher rates of comprehension.
Learning Sight Words
The best way to learn sight words is through lots and lots of repetition, in the form of sight word games and activities. The last thing you want to do is bore your students with rote learning of sight words. That’s where fun sight word activities come in!
Research shows that it is best to:
- Introduce new sight words in isolation (i.e. the sight word by itself).
- Immediately follow this with repeated exposures to the same sight words in books and other text materials.
- Increase exposure through sight word games and activities.
This is made easy in the New Zealand context as Ready to Read books match purposely with each group of sight words.
Six Fun Sight Word Activities for New Readers
We have selected six fun sight word activities that you could easily introduce to your classroom or home!
1. Sight Word Chalk
Give students coloured chalk and their list of sight words (around five sight words is a good number at one time). Your class will enjoy writing their sight words on the pavements outside your classroom. This is also a fun activity to do at home. Some days our driveway is filled with sight word chalk!
Are you feeling really adventurous with sight word chalk at home? Get your kids to try sight word chalk on the trampoline mat, or use special bath chalk on the sides of your bath while they are having a wash!
2. Sight Word Painting
Channel your students’ inner artist with sight word painting – all you need is paints, paint brushes, paper, and of course, sight words! Try painting the whole sight word in one colour, and as an extension, each letter of the sight word in a different paint colour.
3. Play Dough Sight Words
This activity is great as a hands-on sight word activity. There is a multitude of fun sight word activities you can do with playdough. My two favourites are:
- Forming each of the sight words, letter by letter, with rolled up play dough.
- Rolling out some play dough and writing a sight word with a toothpick.
One place you can source your play dough is from Ahua Supplies. They create NZ made non-toxic, food only ingredient play dough.
4. Pipe Cleaner Sight Words
Another great hands-on sight word activity is creating sight words with pipe cleaners. I can’t say I have ever actually used a pipe cleaner to clean a pipe, but they certainly work well in crafts. Set your students’ the task of bending and twisting their pipe cleaners into the letters of their sight words.
5. Sight Word Boom
A fun game that also practices the quick reading of sight words is Sight Word BOOM. In this game, a set of cards is shuffled and placed face down. Within that pack of cards is 3-4 BOOM cards. Students in pairs or small groups take turns to flip over a card and read it. If they can read the word correctly, they add that card to their pile and continue to flip words. If they flip over a BOOM card, their turn is over and their pile of cards goes back into the middle.
Bonus skills with this game include counting and learning to be patient while taking turns – both important skills 😀.
I have found this to be a very engaging game in the classroom. In addition, I have sent this home with students as a home-practice game and had great feedback from parents. Click here to get yours today.
6. Sight Word Snakes and Ladders
This fun sight word activity is an oldie, but a goodie! Snakes and ladders is a simple to play, engaging way to practice sight words in school or at home.
Bonus skills with this game include counting, learning directional vocabulary such as up, down, left and right, and identifying number patterns on dice.
But Wait, There’s More!
If you are serious about using sight word games and activities in your classroom or home, our Sight Words Total Package is for you! This discounted bundle includes TEN bundles in total. This is everything you will need to provide activities and games while reinforcing sight word fluency and writing skills! Save your time and get yours today!
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Sight Word Activity Sheets
Our Sight Word Activity Sheets are great for building reading fluency. They are also handy for targeting gaps after assessing students. Kids love the superhero theme too! This features the first 84 sight words. Get yours today and try the freebie below.
Here is a full size example page! (Feel free to print it off!)
Did you say FREEBIE?
We have created some great FREE and fun sight word activities to help your students learn eight common sight words. Each superhero-themed activity sheet features eight tasks and plenty of chances to practice their sight words.
Onwards and upwards!