Once upon a time, we learnt to read by remembering whole words by sight.
Most children now progress best with phonics, which helps them break down words into common sounds they know, so they can read words they haven’t seen before.
But it helps to learn some words by sight.
Lots of lists of sight words include all the pesky English words that don’t follow the sound rules.
I reckon most of these words are best discovered as kids are actually reading … they are far more likely to remember them if they hear them in an interesting context.
But there are a small number of very high frequency words we use over and over again, that it does make sense to learn early on by sight. Most of these are pronouns (e.g. I, you, it, them, who, that), articles (i.e. the, a, some) or conjunctions (e.g. and, but, or).
These high frequency words let children … who want to … start reading sentences early.
Phonics are a brillaint building block but some kids become bored and lose the motivation to learn if they aren’t able to read whole sentences and books … however simple … early on.
Many of us learnt sight words with plain old flash cards which was super dull but luckily there are loads of fun ways children can learn sight words, with and without flash cards.
And even better lots of these involve running around ANDS can be done outdoors …
… boys in particular can be put off reading because it involves too much sitting still when they are absolutely bursting with energy.
I’ve listed below 30 fun sight words games and you can download for FREE my high frequency sight words flash cards.
One bit of advice I would give … DON’T over load kids with too many sight words all at once.
We introduce a few every week using a free sight word app from Reading Eggs and then build these into activites and games …
Sight Word Games
- Magic words … write a word in white crayon on a piece of paper and paint over it to see the sight word revealed
- Treasure hunt … just hide the flash cards round the house, everyone who finds one runs back to the starting post and shouts it out
- Bean bag throw … chalk the words on the pavement or path, each player draws out a flash card from a jar and then tries to hit that word with a bean bag
- Lotto … just draw out some quick lotto boards with 6 sight words on each … they don’t have to be perfect … and take it in turns to turn over a card from the pile to see who can fill their board first
- Remember remember … print out double lots of flash cards, turn them all face down, each player turns over 2 cards at a time trying to remember where the pairs are
- Tic-tac-toe words … write out 9 words on a sheet of paper in a three by three, one person shouts out a word and the other person has to put one of theirs stone on that word, the first person to use up three stones wins
- Sight word dominoes … just print out 6 sets of each word you have learnt and play like normal dominoes
- Anagrams … this is fun done with magnetic letters
- Knock down … write words on plastic bottles or cups, put them well spaced out on a wall or table and then take aim with a bean bag after shouting out the word you’re trying to hit
- Sight word sort race … write words onto mega blocks about 10 times over and put them all in a box in the middle of the room or garden, give each person a corner and a word to look for and then have a race to see who can find all their words first
- Jumble … a version of scrabble where each person tries to make a word from the letters on the floor, everyone shares the letters rather than have their own … to start with you could have a list of words as prompts to tick off and copy from
- Build sentences out of flash cards and toys
- Sight word target practice … write words on paper plates & stick these to the wall, one person calls out a word and the other person has to try and hit it with a soft ball or toy
- Sight word throw … write words on ping pong balls and put them on a tray, call out a word and pick someone to find the word and throw it to you
- Sight word hop scotch … chalk out a hopscotch grid on the pavement or yard, you have to call out each word before you hop onto it
- Sight word twister … blue tack flash cards onto twister sheet … or draw circles with words on pavement or yard … and call out words for each player until they are a right old twist 🙂
- Sight word dash … stick the words up on a wall or fence, stand at the other end of the room or garden, tell your child or two children a word to find or give them each a flash card to match and then have a race against each other or against the clock to see who can find their sight word and get back the first
- Sight word pop … stretch out a big, big piece of triple layer bubble wrap, stick flash cards to bubble wrap or write sight words onto strips of masking tap, call out a word or provide a matching card and get the kids to find the word and jump on it
- Jigsaw … cut flash cards into parts and jumble them up
- Dot to dot
- Word search … just hide a few sight words in a very small word search
- Hangman … with 1 or more starting letters
- Throw the dice … write out 20 to 25 sight words on sheets of A4 and lay them out as a winding path across the room, or chalk them on pavement or yard … simply throw the dice and move that number of words … read the word and if you can’t miss a go / go back the beginning etc … first one to the end wins
- Slap snap … print out double or quadruple sets of sight words … depending on how many they know … play as snap but when they’re the same you have to slap your hand down
- Climb to the top … write a set of six sight words on stickers that will fit on the biggest dice that you have … draw a table with six columns of ten rows and label each one of the columns … simply throw the dice and colour in a square on the relevant column … see which word wins
- Scramble … put wooden or plastic letters inside a play tunnel … give each child a sight word card and send them into the tunnel to find the letters for their word as quickly as possible
- Show down … take two sets of a small group of flash cards … or write the sight words on cards … lay out one set in front of child … secretly pick a card from your own pile yourself and call out the word … the child tries to find the word you called out … after seconds shout out 3-2-1 showdown and you both slap down your cards and see if they match …
- Sight word bowling … stick words to bowling pins … or empty plastic bottles with some beans in the bottom … put the words in a reasonably spaced row … call out a word or pull it from a jar … and try and hit that word with a bowling ball
- Rock paper scissors … print out or write out 3 sets of flash cards for the group of words you want to cover … draw a rock on each card in one set, paper on another and scissors on a third … as long as everyone knows what the symbol means it doesn’t matter how wonky your drawing is … deal out the cards … each player reads out the first card in their pile and then puts them down … rock beats scissors, scissors beats paper, paper beats rock … the winning player takes the other players card … continue until one player runs out of cards
- Rats … print out about 48 sight words … can be multiple sets of the same word … also print out 8 cards that says RATS … shuffle up the cards and deal them out … each player picks the top card from their pile and calls it out before putting on their discard pile … but if they pull out a RATS card, they have to pick up their discard pile … first person to get rid of all their cards wins