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Teaching Sight Words to Kids: Strategies, Games, Activities, Worksheets, and Printables

Rose is a full-time freelance writer who frequently writes about education, special education, DIY projects, food, Milwaukee, and more.

Flashcards are a great method for practicing sight words.

Flashcards are a great method for practicing sight words.

What are sight words?

Sight words are words that must be memorized, as they cannot be sounded out phonetically, such as the, as, and and. They are also commonly referred to as site words. Additionally, many people refer to them as Dolche words. The Dolche word list includes 220 sight words and 95 additional words that are frequently used in children's literature. Finally, some people also opt to use the Fry Word List, which is a similar sight word compilation. The good news is that there are many solid sight word lists out there. The list that you have selected for your students or your own children will most likely work just fine.

Learning sight words is an essential component of the reading process. There are a number of strategies, games, activities, and worksheets that can be an asset for teachers and parents who are teaching sight words. Don't be afraid to pull resources from multiple locations. Students will appreciate and respond positively to a wide mix of materials as long as they are all interesting and engaging.

If you don't already have a sight word list, there are lots of word lists available online.

Kindergarten Sight Words

Tips for teaching sight words

  • Introduce five words at a time. Students can get overwhelmed if they are asked to learn too many sight words in a short period of time. Limit new words to five or less at a time. Wait until a student has mastered this set of words before moving on to the next one.
  • Mix up the routine. No matter how good a strategy is, it can become monotonous over time. Keep a regular rotation of activities going for teaching sight words.
  • Give students choices. As students work on sight words throughout a school year, they may develop preferences for particular lessons or review strategies. Let students vote on the games that they would like to play as a class and let them choose their own review materials during independent study times.

First 24 High Frequency Words Set to Music

General teaching strategies

  • Picture associations. Sight words some of the most difficult words to associate with images. If you have students who are may benefit from this strategy, consider using Boardmaker to create appropriate images for flashcards and other teaching materials.
  • Make connections between the print and the sound of the word. Teachers and parents will find numerous opportunities to do this naturally throughout the day. As you encounter sight words in other settings, make a point of noting them to students.
  • Repetition. Most people do not learn new words the first time that they encounter them. It often takes multiple encounters for the words to stick. The more opportunities that children have with sight words, the more likely they are to learn them.
  • Teach words in context. While flashcards and isolated word games can be important components for learning sight words, students also need to experience them in context. Give students authentic texts at their reading levels as often as possible.
  • Set sight words to music. Once you have learned the lyrics to a song, it is often impossible to forget. Many people have developed fun, catchy sight word songs.

Unique fun games and activities

There are so many creative ideas out there for teaching sight words. This is by no means a comprehensive resource. I have included just a few of my favorite ideas and resources to get you started. Once you get in the habit of thinking outside of the worksheet box and using ordinary objects for learning opportunities, you'll have no shortage of fun games and activities for any lesson.

  • Make a game out of it. Any time you can make a game out of a simple lesson plan or review activity, the more likely it is that you'll motivate a few more students. You don't need to make it complicated or time consuming. Adapt an existing game to incorporate sight words (i.e. Around the World) or search for games that other teachers and parents have already created.
  • Create a scavenger hunt. Have students work their way through the classroom or school to find all of the sight words on a list.
  • Write sight words on unique objects. There is no end to the number of objects that you can use for writing sight words. As long as the surface can withstand ink safely, go for it.
  • Don't forget about sensory and fine motor skills. You can also use sight word activities as an opportunity to work on sensory and fine motor skills. For example, you can write sight words on little cards that students have to pick up with tweezers before they read them or you can have students form letters with Play-Doh or write words in shaving cream, salt, or coffee grounds.

Justin's Sight Words Game

Worksheets and Printables

While I do not recommend relying solely on worksheets and other printable materials for teaching sight words, they can play an important role in a teaching curriculum. Seasonally themed worksheets are always an easy way to switch up the routine. Many printable materials can become components of motivating classroom games. I have included just a handful of the free materials available online. Don't be afraid to search by grade level and/or holiday if you aren't able to find what you are looking for here.

More elementary education teaching resources from the author.

© 2012 Rose Clearfield


Rose Clearfield (author) from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on May 26, 2014:

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Thanks, noenhulk! I appreciate the feedback.

Cyndi, you're absolutely right! Great point.

Cynthia Calhoun from Western NC on May 26, 2014:

Interestingly, many of the techniques for teaching sight words are also the same as when you're teaching a foreign language. In foreign language, the emphasis is on context, but reinforced through various other activities including games, worksheets, stories, flashcards and the like. Well done here and it's really interesting to see how this kind of teaching is connected to what I do. :)

noenhulk on May 26, 2014:

This could be very well great for children. To see them learning is fun. Thanks for the sharing too


Rose Clearfield (author) from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on May 24, 2014:

I'm glad that the tips here are helpful for you, moronkee! Best of luck.

Moronke Oluwatoyin on May 24, 2014:

I think the mistake I make often is giving them so many sight words to learn in a short period.

Thanks for the tips.

Rose Clearfield (author) from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on May 23, 2014:

Lady Guinevere, yes for sure!

cygnetbrown, that's great. :) Thanks for sharing!

Cygnet Brown from Springfield, Missouri on May 23, 2014:

We started using 3x5 flash cards to teach the first 100 sight words to my daughter in the beginning of summer before she started kindergarten. She knew all of them by the time school started. (I had previously taught her how the letters sounded out). I simply added one or two more words every time we sat down to practice the words. She never had the difficulty of sounding out words.

Debra Allen from West By God on May 23, 2014:

This is great for those raising children and pre-schools an kindergarten. I do not have any children at home anymore.

Rose Clearfield (author) from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on January 30, 2013:

Thanks so much, Vicki!

Victoria Lynn from Arkansas, USA on January 30, 2013:

Great tips! So well laid out and attractive, too!

Rose Clearfield (author) from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on January 30, 2013:

Thanks so much, Carter!

Mary from Cronulla NSW on January 30, 2013:

Brilliant hub random, and so helpful for teaching young children...well doneVUUABI & shared

Rose Clearfield (author) from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on January 30, 2013:

Thanks, Adrienne! You're right that there are a lot of great resources here for both preschoolers and kindergarteners.

Fierce Manson from Atlanta on January 30, 2013:

This is a great hub for those teaching children sight words. Very informative. The US have a huge problem with literacy, and teaching

children by using different tools is a great way for preschoolers, and kindergartners to learn how to read.

Rose Clearfield (author) from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on January 30, 2013:

Paul, it's great to hear that! Setting sight words to music is a great strategy. Not only do students love it, but the knowledge really sticks.

Boulism, thanks!

Thundermama, I'm glad that this article is helpful for you! Best of luck.

Catherine Taylor from Canada on January 30, 2013:

I found this hub very useful. We are struggling to teach one of girreason read and your resource lists and links have helped me find some great tools. Voted way up and sharing.

Boulism from Short Beach, CT on January 30, 2013:

Great ideas, nice work!

Paul Richard Kuehn from Udorn City, Thailand on January 30, 2013:


Thank you very much for your great ideas and resources for teaching sight words. They will be very helpful to me as an EFL teacher. I have had a lot of success in the classroom by setting sight words to music. My students love learning through songs. Voted up as useful and sharing with followers and on Facebook. Also Pinning.

Rose Clearfield (author) from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on November 27, 2012:

That's great, Stephanie! Thanks. Best of luck to him. :)

stephanieb27 from United States on November 27, 2012:

My son is in kindergarten and we are working on his sight words. Great suggestions!! :)

Rose Clearfield (author) from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on November 27, 2012:

Thanks, FreezeFrame! I don't know that I'd say that we're failing at it in our schools, but the number of kids who graduate from high school in the United States without basic literacy skills is really scary.

FreezeFrame34 from Charleston SC on November 26, 2012:

Great ideas and resources! Literacy is extremely important and unfortunately one thing we are failing at in schools. Thanks for sharing!

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