Yes, you CAN have fun – and still learn – with flash cards!
Sometimes it feels like teachers are constantly reinventing the wheel – always trying to find new manipulatives, games, and engaging ways to get kids excited about learning. Don’t get me wrong…I’m a total sucker for a lot of those novel things, but I also enjoy trying to find new ways to use the same old things – like sight word flash cards.
So today I want to share with you some really engaging ways for your students to practice sight words, and they all start with plain, old, boring flash cards. You probably have some laying around your classroom, but if not, I whipped up an editable set of basic cards that you can print (grab them for free at the end of this post).
1. Good Morning Sight Words
Morning Meeting is such a great time of the day because you can pack in a ton of learning and community building all at once. I’m a fan of the Responsive Classroom model, which includes a greeting, a chance to share, a group activity, and a morning message.
Here’s an awesome greeting that will get your students giggling as they review their sight words:
- Pass out a sight word flash card to each student. Give them a minute to read their cards and make sure they all know what word they have.
- Have students hold their cards in front of their chests facing outward so the rest of the class can see.
- Invite them to start walking around the room, greeting each other – but instead of saying names, they’re going to greet each other by sight word. For example: Chloe’s card says the and Dane’s card says like. Chloe walks up to Dane and says, “Good morning, LIKE!” and Dane replies, “Good morning, THE!“
- The part that gets them giggling is when they don’t know the sight word on someone’s card. Then they have to say something like, “I’m sorry, I forgot your name. Can you please tell me what it is?” and the other student says, “My name is CAN!” The student then greets them, “Good morning, CAN!” And in all the years that I used this greeting, I never had a student feel bad that they didn’t know the word – they love asking!
2. Sight Word Go Fish
This is classic game that many students already know how to play…just sub in sight word flash cards for playing cards. You’ll just need to make sure you have at least 2 of each word.
Here’s how to play:
- Each player gets 5 cards that they keep hidden from the other player(s).
- The rest of the cards go face-down in the middle.
- Player 1 starts by asking Player 2, “Do you have the word WE?” If Player 2 has the card, s/he must give it to Player 1. If not, s/he says, “Go fish!” and Player 1 chooses a card from the pile in the middle.
- If Player 1 gets a match, those cards are set aside in the “match pile” to be counted at the end of the game.
- Now it’s Player 2’s turn and they ask Player 1 for a card.
- Play continues until someone runs out of cards in their hand, then all players count to see how many pairs they have. Whoever has the most is the winner!
Again, this is a classic game that many students already know how to play. But in this version, they have to read every card they flip over (that’s an important part of this, because if they’re not reading the words they’re not really practicing them – they could just as easily be making visual matches).
When I had my students play Memory, I would try to have cards in 2 different colors, so they knew to pick one of each. This is optional, but it seems to help keep kids from getting overwhelmed by too many cards. So for this game, I would use the Basic Editable Sight Word Cards (available at the end of this post) and print them in 2 different colors.
This is how to play:
- Players work together to place the sight word flash cards face down. I always tried to teach them to line them up in rows…they didn’t always like to do it that way, but hey, I tried!
- Player 1 flips over a card, lays it face up in the space s/he took it from and reads the word. Then s/he picks another card and does the same.
- If it’s a match, Player 1 gets to put it in their “match pile.” If it’s not a match, s/he flips them back over and it’s the next player’s turn.
- Players repeat these steps until all the cards are matched up, then they count their cards and see who has the most.
4. Sensory Bin Search
Way back when I first started teaching, I fervently followed Marsha McGuire of A Differentiated Kindergarten and Greg Smedley-Warren of Kindergarten Smorgasboard because they had (and still do have!) so many amazing ideas. One of the things they both talked a lot about was how to use sensory bins for learning.
I loved that idea because kindergartners are still so little, and they love to have fun sensory experiences. And when they’re having fun, they’re more likely to learn. So I was completely on board with using sensory bins in my classroom.
The downfall is that they can be expensive, so I was always on the hunt for cheap fillers. In the spring of one of my first years, I found some really fun leis at the Dollar Tree that were similar to these from Amazon…
…and I just loved the colors of the flowers. And they were super inexpensive too, so I decided to use them as sensory bin filler! I just cut the string, pulled all the flowers off, and tossed them into the bin. Then I added different types of cards for students to pull out with these jumbo tweezers (a must-have for any preschool or kindergarten classroom!):
And here’s the result (using my free editable sight word cards of course!):
Students use the jumbo tweezers to reach in and grab a sight word flash card (which, of course, are more well-hidden when they’re not staged for a picture). You could have them read the card, match it up with another card, sort them onto mats by how many letters they have, what vowels are in them, etc. The possibilities are endless!
5. Seek & Find
This is one of my all-time favorite review games to play! It can be played with the whole class or as a partner game. All you need are some sight word cards and another, smaller card with a star or a sticker on it to hide behind one of the words.
Here are the directions:
- Lay the sight word cards out on a table or in a pocket chart. Hide the small card behind one of the word cards.
- The first player reads one of the words. You remove that card and if the smaller card is hiding behind it, that player is the winner!
- If not, the next player picks a word. Just a reminder that it’s important for students to actually read the word (or attempt to read it) and not just point. They’re not really learning anything if they don’t do the work.
- The game continues until the hidden card is found!
6. Sight Word Writing Fun
Let’s be honest: kids need to practice writing their sight words but they don’t always like it. So I’m all about spicing it up a little bit with different recording sheets and writing utensils.
One of my favorite TpT resources ever is this Spelling in A Snap bundle by Anna Brantley, which quickly became a staple in my literacy tubs. I love it because there are so many unique options, and they don’t have the words already printed on the pages, so students can work on any sight word or spelling word.
Just pop the sight word cards in a basket or baggie, and have students pull one out and write it on their recording sheet.
To get kids even more excited about doing this work, you can add some fun writing utensils! Here are some that I used in my classroom that I recommend:
But this…THIS is my all-time favorite activity from this pack that students just LOVE:
First, students pick a sight word flash card and write it with a white china marker:
Then, they color over the top of it with a Mr. Sketch marker and the word magically appears!
So there you have it, 6 great ways to practice sight words with plain ol’ cards! Use the ones you already have in your classroom, or download this editable PDF to create your own!