top of page
  • Writer's pictureJanay Neufeld

Sick And Tired Of Doing SIGHT WORDS The Old Way? Stop the Frustration at Home!

Blog #2 of my Sight Word Blog Series! How To Help with Sight Words at Home!

If you have a child in elementary school, you know how much teachers hammer sight words/high-frequency words. But are you sick and tired of pushing flashcards on your child? Are you out of ideas to practice sight words at home? Or not sure how to work on sight words at all? Is it causing a big fight with your child each day at home? If so, please know you are not alone! And if so, this blog series about sight words is for you! This is blog (#2) of a three-part series that will guide you through how to help with sight words at home.

First Thing to Know When Learning How to Help with Sight Words at Home!

Contrary to prior belief, it's ineffective to memorize sight words the old-fashioned way with flashcards and try to hammer them into our brains via memorization. Science shows that children can recognize sight words better when they can locate and recognize the grapheme-phoneme connection instead of memorizing the word as a whole.

Sight words fall into two categories, and my students know them as heart words or flash words. Flash words are sight words that are spelled regularly (following the phonics patterns that can be taught and executed) because they follow all the rules, they can be recognized in a flash. Heart words are spelled irregularly (words that do not follow phonics patterns-what I like to call rule-breakers). Rule breakers have patterns that do not follow the phonics patterns we have been learning. Therefore, the word's unusual patterns must be remembered by heart (the rest of the word can be sounded out as usual).

How to Help with Sight Words at Home: talk about the words and help children get familiar with irregular words. Have them draw a heart over the part of the word that is unusual. For Example, the word said -ai is unusual because it makes the /eh/ sound instead of the long /a/ like -ai typically makes. You would talk about this and have your child draw a heart around the ai part of the word like the following:

Ditch the Old Way of Memorizing Sight Words with Flashcards!

The best way to teach high-frequency words is to focus on mastery, but the science of reading has been found contrary to former practices and beliefs by educators. For years teachers have tried to have students memorize all sight words. Memorizing is an ineffective strategy. Teaching students spelling patterns (even if they are irregular, pointing them out and talking about them is best!), letter-sound correspondences (sounds of the alphabet represented by letters), and phonemic segmentation (breaking down words into individual sounds) are far more effective.

Research tells us that readers store irregular words in their brains or memory like regular words. Meaning readers look at each letter, the pattern the letters make in the word, and associate their sounds. Therefore, according to research, these three parts of the brain must be activated for a child to learn a word: sounds, meanings, and letters.

Effective Sight Word Strategies that Activate All Three Parts of the Brain:

1. Read-Spell-Write-Extend

Read-Spell-Write-Extend is a technique I picked up from A Fresh Look at Phonics by Wiley Belvins. In his book, he states the following about this activity, "This routine offers a valuable tool for engaging all parts of the brain needed to learn a word, accelerates that learning, and aids in helping irregular words "stick." When you say the word, the "sound" part of the brain is activated. When you read the context sentence and discuss it, the "meaning" part of the brain is activated. And when you spell the word, the "letters" part of the brain is activated. You know this routine works when students quickly and automatically identify high-frequency words when reading connected text and easily distinguish visually similar words (e.g., When and then). To misread one of these words can have a serious impact on understanding."

Watch the video below to see it in action!

2. Orthographic Mapping/Sound Boxes

Orthographic mapping is the process of helping children to make connections between the letters and sounds in a word by mapping out the sounds they hear in a word, and they will add in the graphemes (letters) for each sound eventually as well! This technique allows readers to store words in their brains so they can eventually recognize them instantly by sight.

Watch the video below to see it in action!

The orthographic mapping tool I often use with my students for our online tutoring sessions can be found at the link below. I like to use this tool with students because you can change the number of boxes available depending on how many sounds are in the given the word. Also, my students love when I give them control of the screen and allow them to move the counters independently! You can use this tool at home with your child or continue reading to download your Free Sight Word Activity Pack, including orthographic mapping activities inside!

3. Arm Tapping

Arm tapping is a great activity for the repetition of sight words. Plus, it adds spelling to make a deeper cognitive impression. The arm tapping stimulates kinesthetic and tactile feedback as well.

Watch the video below to see how it works!

4. Multi-Sensory Activities

Multi-sensory activities are very helpful for children. When they use more than one of the senses at a time, the information is more likely to stick, plus kids love it because it's fun! Multi-sensory activities result in better memory of sight words, but this type of learning can be particularly helpful for learning tricky words or for those who learn or think differently because it gives them multiple ways to connect to the content. For ideas on how to make learning multi-sensory at home, keep scrolling to the section titled, Products I Recommend Buying to Make Sight Words Multisensory and Fun! Or Download my Sight Word Activities Pack for examples of lessons on how to work on sight words at home.

5. Sight word Sort

Sorts help students look for similarities and differences between different sight words, notice phonics and spelling patterns, and make connections. Have your child look at 6-8 sight words and help your child sort them into categories. Example: similar phonics patterns (magic e, closed patterns, bossy r, two vowel walkers, and so on), words that start with the same beginning sounds, words that end with the same ending sounds, etc. See it in action with one of my students in the video below:

Feeling overwhelmed?

Lucky for you, I have created a FREE Sight Word Activity Pack with a FREE 11-page PDF printable guide on lessons to practice sight words at home! These activities activate the parts of the brain required to learn sight words and make them stick, are multi-sensory, and are backed by the science of reading!

Problematic Words

No matter how hard you try, some words are harder for children to learn than others. We know which words are most problematic for children and need to take more time reviewing and practicing them. Some of the hardest irregular sight words are was, of, and said. Common mishaps for children include the following:

Tips for Working on Problematic Sight Words at Home

  1. Reorganize your child's words and connect words that have common patterns (come/some, where/there, could/would)

  2. Make connections with the words: When I teach students tricky sight words, I love to use words embedded with pictures, or we look on google to find an image the child thinks adequately represents the word, or maybe the picture reminds them of a tricky sound pattern. Then we create a sentence or phrase using that word and write it out. Examples of a student's sight word slides from lessons in my tutoring sessions are pictured below:

My student chose a picture of an owl for this sight word because it reminds them of the sound an owl makes, which reminds them of the sight word who!

My student chose a picture of a Squishmallow for this sight word because it helps them remember the aw sound. I usually ask them something like, "what is something you can think of that would make you go awwwww." Then we put the picture on their sight word slide to help them remember to make that sound when they read the word!

Another student chose a picture that looked like the man was going "aw man" to help him remember the aw sound!

3. Multisensory Activities

This just means using several different senses at the same time when working on sight words. Make working on sight words visual, auditory, tactile, and kinesthetic if you can!

Using a multisensory approach when teaching sight words increases the likelihood that the student will remember the word and helps the word stick through multiple modalities.

There are many multisensory sight word activities that you can DIY at home! Make sure you download my FREE Sight Word Activity Pack with free printable ideas to practice sight words at home!

Products I Recommend Buying to Make Sight Words Multisensory and Fun!

This blog post includes affiliate links for your convenience. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

1. Eyewords

I love this program! My students and I have so much fun using them; they are extremely effective! They use a multisensory approach that caters to all students. According to their website, "Scientific research conducted on Eyewords™ has validated that combining embedded pictures, a contextual phrase, and related kinesthetic action with phonics is more effective than simple text and phonics alone for learning, retaining, and recalling the high-frequency words. This current research opens up a new world of opportunity for effectively removing learning barriers for students of all ages and abilities."

2. Play-Doh

Play-Doh is a really fun way to use both visual and tactile learning! Your child can create their words, or there are cute Play-Doh stamp sets like the one I have linked below!

3. Shaving Cream or Foam Soap

Writing sight words in a shaving cream can be a fun and simple way to shake things up with sight words and make them exciting! Also, you can buy kids' foam soap like the ones I have linked below. They smell good and come in fun colors!

4. Magnetic Letters

Magnetic letters are a fun way to play and build words with your child! It's visual, tactile, and fun! You can play fun games where you ask your child to close their eyes, remove some of the letters, and ask your child what letters are missing in the word when they open their eyes.

5. Wikki Stix

Wikki Stix are fun sticks you can fold, twist, bend, and mold into different letters and words! They are non-toxic and made of food-grade wax. They stick together but do not create a mess. They create endless opportunities for creative play!

6. Sand

Writing sight words in the sand is a fun way to work on visual, auditory, and tactile learning modalities. You can buy play sand and put it in a pencil box or tray like the picture below. Have your child write their words with a pencil or their finger.

You can also purchase sand tracing Montesorri kits via the link below. The kits are nice because they are a little less DIY and have all the tools ready to use (flashcards, etc.) and a lid!

8. Drawing Supplies

Fun drawing supplies can make working on sight words fun and multi-sensory. Some ideas are to have your child draw a picture representing the sight word you are working on, draw the consonants in one color and the vowels in another, and highlight the tricky phonics or spelling patterns.

Ideas to practice sight words at home
This student created a picture for the sight word off and described her drawing as "A boy telling a girl to get off a tree branch because it is slippery and dangerous."

9. Bath Crayons or Finger Paint

I find bath time a great time to work on things with my 2-year-old daughter. In the bath, she is calm, content, and contained in one space small space so that she can focus. She loves using bath crayons or finger paint to work on her letters and name. But you could easily use these for practice with sight words as well!

Other Key Tips for How to Help With Sight Words at Home

I recommend working on no more than ten sight words at a time. Otherwise, it can be overwhelming for children, and it's best to work on mastering a few at a time and then moving on. It would be best to go back and assess every few months and ensure that the words stick. I test every three months with the students I tutor to ensure progress. Use the lists provided in this blog to assess. Keep the words your child can identify correctly and rapidly in a pile. Keep another pile for those they can read accurately but not automatically, and one for incorrect answers. This way, you can focus on those they need to work on recognizing quicker and those they guessed incorrectly.

Fun Sight Word Games

Kids love playing games, and you can quickly turn working on sight words into a game. Overall, there are endless possibilities. Have fun with it, and get creative! Visit my previous blog in this series for fun ideas for Sight Word games at home and to print free sight word flashcard lists!

If you do not have time to get super creative with it, here are some fun game ideas that you can purchase on Amazon:

1. The Fidget Game

Amazon describes this game as "created by a Kindergarten teacher devoted to exploring fun ways to teach reading to young kids. The Fidget Game aims to teach curriculum-appropriate Dolch words or sight words from Pre-K to Grade 3 kids. This game can help your child recognize, read, pronounce, spell, and master these high-frequency words from the Dolch list."

2. BAM Bingo Sight Words

This is like the regular old Bingo game we all know and love with an exciting twist. There are multiple levels to meet your child's specific needs. It's a great way to get the whole family involved in a fun and educational game!

3. Zingo!

Bingo with a zing! A super fun and exciting way to work on sight words. Different levels are available to meet your child's specific level.

4. Sight Words Splat!

Another fun game for learning sight words and making it more fun and exciting! They offer the games for different grade levels depending on your child's age and skill level.

5. Kinder Scholars Multisensory Learning Sight Word Kit

A whole kit ready to go for multisensory sight word learning through verbal, visual, and hands-on play!

6. Sight Word Swat

A fun, hands-on fast-paced game for working on sight word recognition and fluency!

7. Dino Stomp

Similar to Sight word swat, but kids stomp on the sight words and learn to recognize them through play!

Are you still Feeling Overwhelmed by it All? Seek the Help of a Professional and Take Some of the Weight Off your Shoulders!

If you still feel overwhelmed or like it would give you peace of mind knowing your child is working with a professional each week to instill these reading foundations, please do not hesitate to reach out. I am always delighted to be a part of a child's reading journey, watch them excel, and gain confidence in their reading skills.

I have over eight years of experience helping children succeed in reading and beyond. All sessions are done online via Zoom from the comfort of your home! Click below to register for a FREE Reading Assessment and receive weekly reading instruction catered to your child's specific needs.


Keep an eye out for Blog #3 of this series for recommendations for FREE sight word resources you can utilize at home!

68 views0 comments


bottom of page