For years, kids have been taught to memorize high-frequency sight words because they don’t follow phonics rules. I’m guilty of having done this, but changed my practices and learned how to really make sight words stick, using phonics.
Now that we know that kids need to learn words by orthographically mapping them out (learn the sound/letter relationships to store them into memory), incorporating phonics-based sight word activities will boost your students’ sight word knowledge!
Here are my favorite phonics-based sight word activities that make sight word practice fun for your kids!
5 Phonics-Based Sight Word Activities to Make Them Stick
“Grapheme” it Out!
Write words on graph paper, placing one sound in each box. Model first tapping out the word to hear one sound at a time, then writing the letter/s (grapheme) that make that sound.
Students can also practice breaking up words using my Word Mapping Sight Word Practice Pages. At the top of the page are boxes for each sound under the dots. There are two versions; with and withOUT hearts so you can differentiate based on the phonics skills you teach.
There are eight different sight word activities for students to practice at once. These pages cover the first 100 Fry Words. There are also word mapping mats included that can be used for other words. These are fantastic for centers!
Sort words that have similarities. This is a great activity to review words covered once you have at least 15 words and can clearly see phonetic similarities across them. Place word cards on a pocket chart and use post-it notes to make headings, then sort the words into each category. Discuss the feature in each word. For example, if a category has words with the long o sound, point out which letter(s) make that sound in each word.
You can have kids do this at a center as well and write down their headings and words in a notebook!
On laminated word cards, have kids color-code the grapheme (letter/s that make up a sound) for each sound in a different color! You can do this a few different ways:
- On laminated word cards, using dry-erase markers.
- In a notebook, using crayons.
- In your small group, ask them to show you with transparent bingo chips. This can be tricky depending on the size of the word cards you use and the number of letters in the grapheme.
I love to use my big Sight Word Sentence Cards because they have the large word on one side and the word in a sentence on the other. Sight word practice in context is important. The sentences are decodable with picture supports for difficult words.
To add some multisensory learning, have kids roll up Play-doh balls and smash them while blending!
This phonics-based sight word activity is perfect for your small-group instruction. Dictate a sight word, then segment it (say each sound in the sight word separately) and have kids write letters for sounds.
For example, for the word SAID:
“Listen as I say each sound in the word SAID. /s/…what letter stands for the /s/ sound in SAID? Let’s write the letter s…Let’s continue: /s//e/. . . what letters stand for the /e/ sound in SAID? This is a tricky word and AI makes the /e/ sound in the word SAID. Let’s write those letters next. The last sound in SAID is /d/. What letter makes the /d/ sound in SAID? Yes, let’s write the letter D. Place your finger underneath each letter as we spell it: S-A-I-D is how we spell the word SAID.”
One of my students’ favorite phonics-based sight word activities is I Spy! You can do this by just using your word wall, or you can place word cards on a pocket chart if you want a smaller word bank. Give a clue for a word and have kids find the word. Then, have kids give the clues.
- “I spy a word with 4 letters. It has AI that says /e/.” (said)
- “I spy a word with 4 letters and 2 syllables.” (into)
- “I spy a word that starts with a digraph and the long o sound spelled OW.” (know)
This makes a great center too! Kids can fold over a card and write a clue on the outside and the word inside. Hang them up around your room or keep them in a bin and read one whenever you have an extra minute!
Make it Count
We don’t have to throw away all of our sight word practice activities, but adding some phonics-based sight word activities will make instruction more effective!
Which activity is your favorite? Will you try one? Let me know in the comments!
Danielle Branch says
I like it! I figured that out this year when I was telling my students that sight words don’t always sound out…but they were actually sounding out!
Yes! I used to tell my students that too, but as the year went on and they learned more phonics generalizations, they realized they could sound out more and more of them! It’s so great to see that they can understand why the words are spelled the way they are.