What are sight words?
Simply put, sight words are words that students should be able to read by sight. This means, within about three seconds or less, they should be able to see the word and say it. They shouldn’t need to guess, decode, stretch it, or sound it out. See it – say it.
In fact, most sight words are phonetically irregular and don’t follow the usual rules of English (for example: he isn’t pronounced “h-eh”).
Why do we need sight words?
Upon entering kindergarten, one of the big goals is to begin reading. As it turns out, sight words account for almost 75% of beginning reader literature. Once your kiddo recognizes sight words, they’ll be well on their way to reading fluently.
Sight words are so important, they’re a part of the Arizona Department of Education’s English Language Arts Standards.
If you came across this article, your child probably has sight word homework. By now, you understand that it really is the foundation to reading, which is critical in every aspect of education.
It can feel redundant and boring (for your child and you!) to practice sight words in a flashcard manner. Show card – read word – show card – read word – repeat X100. While practice does matter, and certainly helps build this skill, with a minute of preparation and creativity you can turn this homework requirement into a fun sight word game.
Make Sight Word Games Fun
Like anything with kids, your attitude sets the tone. If you procrastinate and avoid the nightly sight word practice, your child will complain about it too. Instead, turn this bit of homework into five or ten minutes of sight word game fun. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Sight Word Tic Tac Toe: Cut out the sight words, arrange them in a 3×3 grid, take turns pointing to a word and saying it, then cover your correct answer with a marker. Do your kid a favor and leave the hardest words for them.
- Swat a Sight Word: This is an entertaining game even for upper elementary kids. Tape the sight words onto a wall in a spread out way. Find an unused flyswatter and let your child swat the words as you call them out. Up the stakes and make it a competition with two people playing.
- Sight Word BINGO: Create a BINGO board (draw a 3×3 or 5×5 grid on a piece of paper) and fill in the sight words. Have your child use markers (pennies, scraps of paper, etc.) to cover the sight words as you call them out.
- Sight Word Memory: Make a copy of the sight word flash cards for the week and shuffle them. Find pairs of sight words to create a match. Remember to read each word as you take turns flipping them over.
- Flash Light Games: “Say a word and have your child shine the light beam on each letter of the word in sequence from beginning to the end of the word.”
Sight Word Physical Activities
After a busy day at school, it can be hard to get active kids to sit down and do their homework. Luckily, sight word games are best when they involve movement! Here are a few ideas:
- Sight Word Race Track: This one is perfect for car lovers. Draw a winding road on a piece of paper and add sight words along the way – they could be in the “street,” written on a “house,” in a “parking space,” etc. Call out words and wait for your child to “drive” their car to the correct spot; have them name any sight words they pass on their journey.
- Sight Word Bowling: There are a few ways to play this one. An easy way is to lay the sight word flashcards on the ground and find a marble. Take turns saying a sight word and letting the other person roll the marble toward the word. If you want to take it up a notch, save empty 20oz bottles and write the sight words on them. Use a larger ball to knock them over as you say the words.
- Sight Word Stomp: Have your child help you write their sight words in the driveway with chalk. As you call out a word, they stomp on it. This can be even more fun with a few people, since it adds a level of competition.
- Sight Word Hide & Seek: Hide your child’s sight word flash cards around the house. As a family, try to find them all. Once you’ve collected them, take turns reading your stack. At the end, each person can count how many they found.
- Sight Word Bean Bag Toss: Combining physical activity with learning helps a lot of little kids retain what they’re practicing. Lay out their sight word flashcards in an open area. As you call the word, have your child throw a bean bag on to it.
- Sight Word Jumps: Perfect for rainy days, this game almost feels like a birthday party game. Tape your child’s sight words on the end of a piece of birthday streamers. Hang them from a doorway at varying heights. As you call out the word, they jump to grab it and pull it down.
- Sight Word Balloon Toss: Who doesn’t love playing “keep the balloon in the air”?! This sight word game takes that to the next level. Simply write the sight words on a balloon, toss it to each other, and read whichever words your hands land on.
Sight word games are quick and inexpensive. While flashcards can be boring, a little creativity can help this become an enjoyable family bonding time.