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Getting Sight Words To Stick!

Sight Word Activities that work!

We all know how important knowing sight words is to our students and their reading success.  Getting those sight words to become automatic and stick with them in their little brains can take a bit of work sometimes!  

I use a multi-sensory  sight word approach during our guided reading time coupled with a sense of urgency that keeps the activities quick.   You don't want to eat up too many minutes of your guided reading time to do them.  And by keeping the activities quick, you are hopefully building in automaticity with your students.

Sight Word Activities that work!

The routine I use during guided reading comes from Jan Richardson and her book The Next Step in Guided Reading.  I do not use this for all groups and as always, I tweak it to fit me and my students.

1.  Play What's Missing

Sight Word Activities that work!

For the groups that need it, we write 3 sight words quickly at the beginning of guided reading.  This should be quick and automatic as it is to be sure they remember words they have learned.  After reading we play What's Missing with a new sight word.  Because it is quick for me, I grab an iPad and use that for this activity.

I show the students the new sight word, we read it and then talk about "What Do You Notice".  I want to build their visual memory of the letters and what the word looks like. For the word look, I would want them to notice the ook chunk, double oo in the middle, begins and ends with tall consonants, looks like the word book, etc....  And I don't use capital letters- for some reason that is the picture I had!

After quickly discussing the features of the word, I turn the iPad to me and take away a letter or chunks of sound depending on the student's needs that I will be calling on to tell me what's missing?  This little game is a HUGE hit with my students.  They always say they LOVE this game!  ha!

2.  Build It

Sight Word Activities that work!

Next, we each build the word with magnetic letters and run our finger under the word to do a slow check for accuracy.  If they have made a mistake, I want THEM to learn to find it, not rely on me.  Then we will Mix and Fix- just mix up the letters and build it again quickly and slow check.  

3.  Table Writing

Third, we write the sight word on the table using only our fingers.  You have to teach the students that it is important that their eyes be on their fingers so their brains can "see" the paths or lines their fingers make.  This is hard for some of them.  Not because they can't remember the letters, but some just want to look everywhere but at their finger!  We spell the word too as we write it.

4.  Write It

Now we grab our markers and erasers and quickly as we can write the word and slow check it.  

All 4 steps must be accomplished quickly otherwise you will lose a lot of time.  I quietly count down from 5 and expect them to have each part completed by the time I get to 1.  They like to try to beat me!

5.  Parental Help

ESGI to make assessments easier

Another way to helps students learn those sight words is to keep track of which they don't know using ESGI software.  Once you test the students, you can print off flashcards for each individual student to take home and practice.  Sight words are usually something manageable for parents to help their child with and they usually like to help with that.  Click the picture above to check out ESGI!

Using ESGI software to learn sight words

6.  Sight Word Pockets

Sight word activities sight word pockets

Sight Word Pockets have been AMAZING for my students!  I really like the 4 steps to learn sight words from Jan Richardson, but some of my students need more practice.  I need my students to be able to practice more than 3 words a day and to be able to cycle back to old words and run through their lists more often.  So during other times, I have the students take out their sight word pockets and do a quick run through Notice a theme of urgency?  Having my students for a very limited amount of time, everything becomes urgent!

Sight word activities sight word pockets

Students only use the words in the baggie on the left side.  As they become proficient with those words, I add from the right side.  Once a list has become mastered, I can add a new list printed on a different color.  That way, students can always cycle back to review old words.  My students need this!  Plus, this system is differentiated to every single student.  They get the word list and word cards that THEY need; the lists are not the same for everyone.  Take them where they are and move them forward.

I know some of you are getting snow!  We have not had much yet this year at all.  Here are some fun snowmen to brighten your student's day as they practice!

Snowman ABC Letter identification and matching

Snowmen capital letter matching to lower case letters and beginning sounds mittens!

Snowman CVC word building

Snowmen CVC word building with snowballs!

Snowman Blends and Digraphs Word Building

Snowmen Blends and Digraphs word building with snowballs!


  1. What app do you use on the iPad to play "What's Missing?" I have that same book and had forgotten this activity. Thank you for reminding me of it!

    1. Kathy, I use Magnetic ABC lite for What's Missing. Thanks!

  2. I definitely remember doing this in grade school! I was actually cleaning out my old school filing cabinet and came across some of these activities and remember it being some of my favorite parts of the school day. Of course, we did not have the technological component but it is good to see iPads being incorporated into the school routine and serving a useful purpose.

  3. I've got Jan's book. I need to look at it again obviously. I love how you differentiate for students too. Great ideas.

    1. Thanks Tammy! Jan's book has a lot of good ideas that help my students!


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