Learning Sight Words


Guest Post by Julie of Make, Take, & Teach 


After your child learns the letters and sounds of the alphabet, the next step in learning to read is learning sight words. Being able to recognize sight words is important because these words make up between 50-70% of the words we encounter in text. Sight words are “service words” that must be quickly recognized in order to read fluently. Many of these words cannot be “sounded out”. Learning sight words can be fun! We know children learn best when we use multi-sensory strategies. This means that children are more likely to learn and remember when we provide opportunities to use as many of the senses as possible when we teach a skill. Try using these multi-sensory activities to teach your child sight words.


  • Make a word with glitter glue. Wait until the glue hardens, and have him/her trace the letters while saying the letter name and then the word (“t” “h” “e”- “the”).
  • Have your child use glue to make the word and then place yarn over the glue.
  • Use Playdoh to make a word.
  • Make a word with Wikki Stix. Wikki Stix are wax covered sticks that can be easily bent into shapes. Bendaroos also work great and can be found in most stores.
  • Have your child trace words in sand. I use meat trays and craft sand. Local butchers often are willing to give you a few meat trays for free.
  • Plastic canvas can be purchased at a craft store. Have your child place paper over the canvas and write a word with a crayon. When the canvas is taken away, the word is “bumpy”.
  • Of course, shaving cream is a popular multi-sensory activity!
  • Incorporating movement into learning sight words is also fun. Try having your child jump, hop, clap or tap out the letters of a sight word.
  • When my daughter was little, we even made an old fashioned hopscotch game with chalk in the driveway and wrote our sight words in each box.




Here are multi-sensory cards for the first 25 Dolch sight words for you to use with the above activities.



Playing games with the sight words is also fun for children. Try playing the Rats! game– children love it! To make the game, simply print the activity single to double-sided. To play the game, scatter the cards word side down on the table. Take turns turning over a card and reading the word. When a player picks the Rats! card, all the cards are returned to the pile. Play continues.



Julie is a Teacher Consultant and the owner of Make, Take & Teach. Visit Julie’s blog at www.blog.maketaketeach.com or her website at www.maketaketeach.com for more free reading related activities and informational handouts.


  1. Those are fantastic ideas! I love the one with the plastic canvas to make bumpy words, had not heard of that before!

    These could be used too for learning to write your name or for the littlest learners, learning to write ABC’s.

  2. This is a helpful post. My son is 4 going on 5, and I need to work on reading with him at home more. I’ve been researching how to teach him to read. I do read to him and point out words to him, but he seems frustrated by it. He goes to a very part time preschool, and he learns there as well.

  3. Hi!

    I am hoping you all can point me in the right direction…. I have heard differing opinions on this and am hoping you can set it straight ;-)

    Do you teach your child to first write letters and THEN read? My daughter knows each letter, letter sounds, and can write a few letters. Should she first learn to write all letters before working on recognizing sight words, etc?


    1. Hi Hellen,

      There’s no reason to wait on sight words until your daughter can write all the letters. Learning sight words will be motivation to keep working on writing her letters; many children do best when they see the goal of learning letters and that it is leading toward being able to read. One multisensory program you might want to check out is the Easy-for-Me reading program from Child1st Publications. The program teaches sight words along with alphabet letter so that children are reading a book after only knowing 8 letter sounds and 3 sight words. What a confidence booster for beginning readers!

    2. @ Hellen,

      I am a university teacher who instructs future early childhood teachers. First, how old is your child? If your child is younger than 5, not yet in kindergarten, my best suggestion to you is work on whatever excites your child. If she is enjoying writing, then let her write. If she is enjoying reading, then let her read. Sight words for young children (preschool) are not necessary. It’s beyond what they need to be concerned with (hence why some children as described above are “frustrated”). The best activities for a preschool age child are those that are both meaningful and fun. Why do adults read? To learn information (like reading a blog), to enjoy a good story (like reading a novel), to find out how to do something (like reading a recipe). So, the best thing parents can do for young children in teaching them to read is to show them how we use reading. So, play with your child in ways to incorporate the real purpose of reading and writing. Let her help you with a cooking activity, let her help you write thank you and birthday cards… etc.

      @ Crystal…

      Your son may not be ready for the types of activities you are doing. Rather than trying to get him to sound out letters, find books that are fun and enjoyable. It sounds like you are working on phonics skills before developing a joy of language and words. Before phonics, must come phonological skills – I would suggest you do more stories that a) have lots of rhyming words and b) have lots of prediction in them. Following along and predicting a story is much more fun that pointing out words. You are going to frustrate him to the point of losing interest and then that will end badly. He will learn to read in Elementary school. Children don’t need to come to school already reading. They are not developmentally ready nor is it necessary.

      1. Thank you! So well said! I teach Kdg. & many are forgetting what children need to know first & come down hard when I child isn’t where they “should be”. Those students did not come in with language skills (alphabet knowledge let alone sounds or rhyming…) I learned exactly what you said in college & now again in grad school. It’s stressed to educators, we try to relay that message in a parent friendly way (which I think you did so nicely) and ‘higher ups’ don’t want to hear it b/c it doesn’t want scores look good for them. I tell my parents at orientation, Learinng started at home, you are your child’s first teacher. I am here to help you continue your childs education and build on what they know now. (for some I start the building, for others we build on those skills already in place)

      2. Hi, I am wondering if you introduce 5 words on Monday and then practice those words every day or do you learn one new word a day? I am home schooling and I am not sure what is the best. I have some little books with sight words so would you recommend focusing on learning those new words each day or sticking with 5 words per week and the new words in the books are just extra words? I am not sure how to incorporate sight words, and word families, and reading, and phonics etc without going overboard. Thanks for any advice. Thanks

  4. Great ideas!! Learning Sight Words are SO important to a child’s success in reading and if they know them early, they will be more eager to read:) Thanks for these activities!

  5. Sorry for being negative. However, I have 3 children. 2 were taught phonics in elementary school and 1 was taught sight words. The child who was taught sight words , is a horrible speller and cannot sound out words. She is in the 11th grade and has hopes of being a doctor some day. I guess she will fit right in. I have yet to be able to read a doctors note. However, her memorization is wonderful. Whenever we are missing something, she always remembers where it is!

    1. @ donna-
      I was a teacher for 12 years. I taught 2,3,5,6, Art, ESL/ELL and Remedial Reading.
      Just so you know your daughter will learn the phonics skills eventually through repetition then one moment it will ‘click’ and she may think, ‘ why didn’t they just teach me this earlier!’ I speak from experience!
      If you are interested I have a tip that may help your child if she hasn’t already picked it up.
      [email protected]
      in the subject line please specify something related to this thread or topic. thanks

  6. @Donna. You are right, those sight words only years in education produced kids who can not sound out words or spell very well. However, now most educators teaching phonics then blending and sight words.

  7. Dies anyone else not remember what “Dick & Jane” did for our countries literacy? What do you mean words that can’t be sounded out!!? Sight words are completely crazy!! And completely crazy!! I hope kids don’t come across any words the the “th” sound without having someone there to let let them know what the word is. Are you just gonna have the kids memorize all the words with “th” and silent “e”? How did YOU learn to read? These kids aren’t reading, they are just memorizing. I think this method is bull.

  8. I’m a teacher and yes sounding out and blending is a great skill to help children read and recognising sight words is necessary as well. HOWEVER, I read to my son every day, several times a day since new born and to my amazement he could read before he was four years old. I did not ‘teach’ him, he just picked it up as I read. He also loves books and when he was at Primary school wrote the most amazing stories. His nursery teachers were gobsmacked when he read to other children at nursery an asked me how I had ‘taught’ him. They asked him and he told them ‘Mum just read to me’. Reading also expands vocabulary and improves spelling. : )

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