Sight word practice CAN be fun with these hands-on ideas!
Last week, I shared a bunch of great ways to use sight word flash cards (read the post here). As I was writing that post, I kept thinking of all kinds of other ways I’ve had my students practice sight words, so I that’s what I want to share with you today! Some require little to no prep, and some will take more planning, but I’m confident you’ll find an idea you like on this list!
#1. Sight word chants & cheers
Every day, I would embed our sight words into my Morning Message. Then, after I read the message to the class, we would go through and find them all.
Whenever we found one, I would circle it and we would all cheer it using one of the 40 chants or cheers from this awesome freebie from Cara Carroll:
I put the laminated cards in a bag and let a student pick one randomly each day. And I am serious, my students always loved doing them – some of the chants in this pack are downright silly! A few of my favorites: Cry Baby, Drum-a-drum-drum, and Ride ’em Cowboy.
I also loved doing the Opera Singer one – I’d show them video clips of male & female opera singers beforehand so they could hear what they were supposed to sound like, then we would just belt out those sight words. What I didn’t love? The days I had other adults in my classroom and THAT’S the card that got chosen. I was always a little bit mortified to sing like that in front of adults, but anything for the kids, right? It was always good for a giggle either way.
#2. Sight Word Swat
I found Sight Word Swat on Amazon and it was one of the best purchases I ever made for my classroom! I used it as one of my literacy tub activities.
To play, you just lay the sight word bugs out on the floor. Each person gets a swatter and someone calls out one of the sight words. The first person to swat the correct bug gets to put it in their pile. Whoever has the most when all the bugs are gone is the winner!
Note: You can create this game yourself with laminated cards and regular fly swatters, but I found that they break really easily. The ones that come with this game are really sturdy – I used them in my classroom for 3 years and none of them broke. For that reason (and because it’s way less prep), I recommend just investing in the real deal!
#3. Sight Word Jenga
I love the idea of taking popular games and adding an academic twist. One year, I found a cheapie version of Jenga for $5 in the Target dollar section. So I picked up a set and turned them into sight word Jenga using a black Sharpie!
When I first introduced the game to my students, I taught them that they had to read the words as they were building the tower and again while they pulled the blocks out. I spent a lot of time talking (all year – not just in this instance) about how I wanted their learning to be fun…but it had to be learning and not just playing, so they HAD to do the work of reading.
And if they didn’t read the words, I would have to put the game away. It happened occasionally, but most of the time, they just needed a little reminder because they did NOT want to miss out on playing it.
Anyways, if you can’t find a cheapie Jenga set in the dollar section or at a thrift store near you, maybe you want to grab this colorful set from Amazon:
#4. Rainbow Write Musical chairs
Sometimes your students just need to get up and moving, and this activity is a way to do that while keeping them engaged in learning. Each student will need:
- A piece of paper with the focus sight word printed in large, gray letters
- A marker or crayon (I like to give them smelly markers)
Find a song for the sight word on YouTube. I like the sight word videos from Have Fun Teaching, like the one below. It’s very, very repetitive, which would normally drive me crazy, but it’s perfect for this activity. They don’t have a huge selection of sight word songs, but I use them whenever I can.
Once you have everything ready, talk about the word and have your students trace it on their paper.
Next, invite your students to walk around the room with their markers and whenever they find a paper that nobody is working on, they stop and trace the word.
Tip: Put out a few extra papers so there’s always an empty one – that way nobody has to wait and everyone stays engaged in the activity.
Play the sight word song a couple of times, and have them keep writing the word on different papers.
I also like to ask those little honeys who struggle to tell me what the word is throughout the activity. When they’re all done, their papers should look something like this:
#5. Top Secret Code Word
You can quickly review sight words (or letters, numbers, shapes, etc.) by having a code word routine. Simply hang this free sign outside your classroom, next to the sink, or near your guided reading table. Then students have to read the code word before they can enter the classroom, wash their hands, or join guided reading.
It’s a great way to embed review into your daily routines – and you can quickly see who knows the word and who does not. Click on the image to download your free copy:
#6. Sensory Sight Words
Although sensory activities take a little more time to prep and usually a LOT more time to clean up, they pack a powerful punch in getting kids excited about learning. And these kinds of activities are the ones that students will remember long after they leave your classroom. Two of my favorite sight word sensory materials are shaving cream and noodles.
Shaving Cream Sight Words:
Sight Words With Noodles:
To create these purple noodles, I just cooked them and drained them. Then I tossed them with a little canola oil & food coloring and let them sit for 10 minutes. Next, I rinsed them off and they were ready to go! I recommend storing them in oil if you’re prepping them beforehand – they get a little sticky when they start to dry out!
#7. Sensory Bins
Speaking of sensory materials, sensory bins are a great hands-on way for students to practice just about any academic skill. Basically, you just fill a tub with a fun material, like this:
Then hide some sight word cards (you can get some free editable cards here), give your students some jumbo tweezers or clothespins to grab them with, and let them get to work. Just make it a rule that they have to read the word on the card when they find it.
To add a little word study, you could have them sort the cards by how many letters they have, what vowels are in them, what they start with, or whatever else you can think of!
Another idea would be to hide individual letters so students have to build the sight word when they find them.
Great ideas for sensory bin fillers include:
- Rice (plain or dyed, DIY or pre-made)
- Colored dry noodles (DIY or pre-made)
- Popcorn kernels
- Dried beans
- Paper shred (usually used for gifts)
- Metallic Easter basket grass
- Fake flowers (I cut up some leis from the dollar store)
- Fake leaves
- Sparkly vase filler balls
- Water beads
- Colored (or plain) sand
- Seasonal table scatter
Here are some of the materials I’ve used in my sensory bins:
#8. Sight Word Seek & Find
Ok, I probably say this in just about every post I write, but I love, love, love the game of Seek & Find to review all sorts of different things. And it’s perfect for sight word practice!
The classic way to play in the classroom is to lay out a set of cards (grab your free editable set). Hide another, smaller card underneath, like this:
Students take turns reading the words on the cards, trying to find the hidden object. Whoever finds it is the winner!
You can also use cups and put a seasonal twist on Seek & Find, like this:
Or, maybe you want less clutter in your life and would prefer a digital version. Well, I’ve got you covered! I have a whole bunch of Digital Seek & Find games for Google Slides & PowerPoint, including these sight word sets (click on the images to check them out in my TpT store):
Each set comes with 15 game boards and over 350 sight word cards – just copy & paste the words you want to use onto the game boards and you’re ready to play. Here’s a little video to show you how it works:
#9. Mystery Sentence
Another digital resource I offer is Mystery Sentence. It’s basically Hangman without the dead guy. You can play it in your classroom on an interactive white board or projection unit – or for distance learning, using the screen share feature in Zoom or your video conferencing app of choice.
Not only will this game help review & reinforce sight words, but it also gives students a chance to review CVC words, vowels & consonants, and sentence features like punctuation.
How to play:
A student guesses a letter, and you remove that letter from the board. If there’s another letter underneath, it’s in the sentence and gets moved up to its place. If there isn’t another letter underneath, it’s not in the sentence and one of the 10 stars at the top gets removed.
When all the stars are removed, the game is over and the teacher wins. But students solve the sentence before they run out of stars, they win! Each game includes an optional 1 minute dance party to celebrate with. Here’s a video preview:
Or play it the old-fashioned way!
Before school shut down due to Covid, I played Mystery Sentence with my students on my whiteboard in the classroom. It’s the same concept, you just use dry erase marker to create the board. My students loved it so much that I had to create a digital version for our virtual meetings.
#10. Word Art
This one is great because it’s really open-ended. Just give your students a blank piece of paper and invite them to write the focus sight word (as plain or fancy as they want), then decorate it. Give them smelly markers, watercolors (I love liquid watercolor for the classroom…it’s a little more expensive up front, but it lasts for YEARS), glitter glue, sequins…whatever odds & ends you have in your classroom. Then let them have some creative freedom!
#11. Pokey Pin Sight Words
Not only will your students get some good practice in with pokey pin sight words, they’ll also get a GREAT fine motor workout for those little fingers!
I recommend making sure they poke the letters with proper letter formation – starting at the top of the first letter. I’ve always used this set from Learning and Growing Together.
#12. Tic Tac Toe
You could laminate them and put them in your literacy centers, use them as morning work, or send them home for students to play with their families.
#13. Sight Word Snowball Fight
If your kids have an abundance of energy and need an outlet, let them have an indoor “snowball” fight with a sight word twist! Here’s what to do:
- Get a bunch of paper from the recycling bin and write a sight word on each one, then crumple them up into balls to make “snowballs.”
- Have students spread out throughout the room (or outside if it’s nice!) and give them each a snowball.
- On the count of 3, everyone opens their papers and reads the sight words. Then they crumple them back up and throw them!
- Next, they pick up a new snowball, open it up to read the word, then throw it again. Set a timer for a few minutes and let them go crazy!
- When the time is up, get them back under control: have them all take a snowball and sit down at their table spots or rug spots. Call out a sight word and if they have it, they either throw it to you or try to make it in the trash can.
#14. Sight Word Balls
One of my favorite purchases as a teacher was a pack of 100 ball pit balls that I got for less than $20:
I wrote sight words on them with a Sharpie, then we used them in a bunch of different ways:
- Spell the sight word: Each student gets a ball and reads the word on it. They do a little toss for each letter, then a big toss when they say the word. Switch with a friend, then do it again.
- Partner toss: Students are paired up and they get several balls. One student picks a ball and reads the word, then tosses it to the other student, who also reads the word. They toss it back & forth as they spell it, then they each say the word one more time. They pick a new ball and repeat.
- Ball hunt: Hide the balls throughout the room. Students search for the balls and when they find one, they sit down with it. Once everybody has found one, they take turns reading them to the class.
- Race to find it: Split your class into 2 teams and line them up. Place the balls across the room or 10-15 feet away on the playground. Call out a word and have one student from each team race to the other side and find the ball with that word on it.
#15. Pay Your Way
I actually never used this, but I had a coworker who did and I always meant to try it. It’s such a great idea! First, print these sight word dollars from The Moffatt Girls on green colored cardstock:
Give them to your students to put in a word wallet (a pocket folder with the top cut off – learn more here). Then hold activities or events where students use their sight word money – but they don’t just hand over the money, oh no! To “pay” for the activity, they have to read the words on each of their dollars.
Have more ideas?
Do you have fun and unique ways to teach sight words? We’d love to hear them! Comment below with your ideas.