Teachers are always on the hunt for great sight word activities. Sight words are any words readers recognize automatically “by sight”—for fluent readers, that’s almost all words! High-frequency words, the most commonly occurring words in written English like those on the Dolch list, are often thought of as the most crucial sight words.
It’s a myth that blindly memorizing every letter in a sight word is the only way to learn it. The science of reading tells us that linking sounds and letters is the most effective way for kids’ brains to learn any word. Many common words are easy to tackle using beginning phonics skills (like “at,” “can,” “him,” etc.), so staying true to a strong phonics curriculum is one way to support kids’ sight word learning. Even irregularly spelled words have decodable parts, e.g., kids can use the sounds of “s” and “d” to help with “said,” even if the “ai” is unexpected. Experts often call these words “heart words” to call out for kids that they should learn the unexpected word parts “by heart.” (If all this is unfamiliar to you, it can feel overwhelming, but you’ve got this! Check out teaching guru Jillian Starr’s explanation for more help.)
Check out these low-prep and engaging sight word activities for both teaching and practicing words.
1. Map it and drive it
This is a genius way to introduce words with appealing materials: Say the word, represent each sound with a LEGO brick, write letters for each sound, and “drive” to read it.
2. Smush play dough for each sound
Set up a routine that works for any word. Play dough squishing for each sound is the ultimate multi-sensory component.
3. Map words with a magnet wand
It is so super-satisfying to drag those magnetic dots around! Watch the video below for lots of tips on introducing a word using this process.
4. Make a mini book
Lots of handy info in one place for your little learners.
5. Tap it, pop it, learn it!
Hardwire those words in kids’ brains with this comprehensive word intro routine. (You had us with the pop its!)
6. Find and swat words
An oldie but such a goodie. Find a word in an array and WHACK! Swat it with a fly swatter!
7. Flip word pancakes
Serve up sight word pancakes while practicing spelling them aloud.
8. Wear heart word bracelets
Make kids feel like sight word VIPs.
9. Search for sight word balls
Write sight words on ball pit balls with a chalk marker or dry-erase marker. Kids can race around hunting for balls to read and toss in a basket, or hunt through a big tub of balls for a certain word.
10. Start a sight word band
Loud but oh-so-fun! Feel the rhythm while tapping and reading sight words stuck to homemade percussion instruments.
11. Drive on a sight word path
This is one of many fun ways to use magnetic tiles for learning! Kids love “knocking down” word tiles with a toy car as they read each one.
12. Use sticky notes to inspire sight word sentences
Have kids stick words on items that give them ideas for sentences. “My Mom said to wear a helmet!” = so good!
13. Write words on a sensory bag
So easy: Fill a zip-top bag with a small amount of kid-safe paint, seal well, and have kids practice “writing” sight words with their finger or a cotton swab.
14. Wear a sight word crown
Wear your word proudly and practice reading others’ words. Fun in person or virtually.
15. Play a magnetic-tile board game
We love new ideas for ways to use magnetic tiles for sight word activities. Easy to set up and fun to play.
16. Spell words to a familiar tune
Get sight words stuck in everyone’s head, in a good way. We’d add a line for chanting the sounds in the word!
17. Feed a word monster
Nom, nom, nom.
18. Search for the pom-pom under sight word cups
Read all the words as you try to find the cup that hides the prize.
19. Play sight word KABOOM
This classroom classic is perfect for sight words. If you need a refresher on the rules, Jillian Starr covers them.
20. Roll and write words
Roll, write, repeat.
21. Write words with rainbow colors
Bonus points for aromatic markers.
22. Trace words with flashlights
Stock up on batteries because kids never get tired of this!
23. Find words in plastic eggs
Give kids a checklist of words to find as they open each egg.
24. Spy words around the classroom
Just add a magnifying glass and clipboard to make kids feel like supersleuths!
25. Find words in the morning message
Don’t forget about old standbys! This is one of our favorite ways to get kids to recognize sight words in connected text.
26. Build words with bricks
Such a great use of extra building bricks!
27. Write words in sand
Easy-peasy to set up and keep neat if you use plastic pencil boxes.
28. Spell words on a construction site
Bulldozing over each word to read it is the best part!
29. Spell words with toy cars
Drive on over!
30. Park in a sight word “parking lot”
This one is easy to modify based on whatever toys are available in the classroom or at home.
31. “Plant” words in play dough
Watch those reading skills grow!
32. Build words in a sensory tub
Because spelling is just more fun when your hands are covered in beans!
33. Write words on a magnetic drawing board
That eraser track makes for a perfect word card holder!
34. Or write words on the window!
Everyone wants a turn to write on the window!
35. Shhh! Discover words written in invisible ink
Write words in white crayon and reveal them with watercolors on top!
36. Dot-paint words with a cotton swab
Calming and effective.
37. “Type” words on a keyboard
Busy day at the sight word office! Use a keyboard cover or any old keyboard.
38. Read words before heading through the door
The line leader can double as the word pointer during transitions.
39. Read the word the teacher’s wearing!
Wait, is there something on my shirt?
40. Take a sight word cakewalk
Choose a winning word when the music stops!
41. Play sight word hopscotch
If you can’t get outdoors, tape on the floor works just as well.
42. Play tic-tac-toe
I’ll be team “the.”
43. Go sight word bowling
No bowling pins? Use half-filled plastic water bottles instead.
44. Ready, aim, read
Just throw a beanbag at a word target if foam darts are a no-go.
45. Play muffin tin ball toss
Toss and read. It’s easy to use colored muffin cups to prep different sets of words.
46. DIY sentence flash cards
Authentic use of words in context for the win.
47. Play sight word checkers
King me! If kids don’t have a partner available, they can “play” with a stuffed animal and get double practice.
48. Play sight word Guess Who?
Set up this game once and use it forever.