What is the point of sight words games? Are the kids actually learning anything, or just playing?
First, a brief explanation of sight words. These are words that kids need to be able to recognize at a glance—by sight—as part of learning to read fluently. These are words that occur very frequently in written English (words like can, will, and), some of which are also phonetically irregular (for example, buy, come, talk). Once a child is able to read these high-frequency words quickly, he can focus his attention on the more advanced words and on understanding the meaning of what he’s reading.
The way to learn sight words is basically to memorize them one by one through repetition—seeing the word, hearing the word, saying the word, spelling the word, and even writing the word. But how to do this without boring the pants off your active, fidgety kid and without driving yourself crazy? I recommend short, straightforward lessons, reinforced with plenty of game time.
A word of caution: sight words games are a great way to reinforce and practice a sight words lesson, but games are not the way to introduce new words. A child should have a pretty decent grasp of a word before you use it in a game. Especially if you are working with a group of children—the last thing you want is to embarrass a struggling reader in front of his classmates by stumping him with a word he’s not yet familiar with. Games are for reinforcement, not for introducing new material.
At SightWords.com, we have developed twelve great sight words games for you to play with your children or students. All the materials are free and fully customizable. Just print out a game board and/or set of cards, and start playing (and learning)!
One of my favorites is Book Land, a sight words version of the classic board game Candy Land. In Candy Land, a player moves forward according to the number and color of the squares on the card they draw. In Book Land, each card has a sight word on it, and the player must read the word correctly (and quickly) before they can move their game piece. A child can play with a parent, or 2-4 children can play on their own with a teacher just checking in as needed.
One set of Book Land cards can contain up to 54 different words. You can use this game to review a bunch of already-learned words, or customize the cards to focus on just a handful of words with lots of repetition. We also provide pre-made cards using the two most-used sight words lists: Dolch and Fry.
One feature that parents love about Book Land is that younger, non-reading siblings can join in the fun! They just play according to the traditional game rules, while Big Brother has to read the cards. (Some parents also like that our game board graphics reference different types of literature instead of different types of sugar!)
If your child isn’t a big fan of Candy Land, try Bingo, Fly Swat, or Dominoes instead. Just find a game they like and start practicing those sight words!
Margo Edwards is the Director of Content Development at SightWords.com, a website dedicated to the promotion of child literacy through a variety of free online resources. SIghtWords.com is proud to be sponsored by the Georgia Preschool Association.