27 Sight Word Centers for Primary Students

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The days of flashcards are over.  Rote memorization isn’t best practice and educators are shying away from the drill-and-practice mindset.  Why?  Some of these ideas definitely have success.  More than likely, both you and I learned this way.  We memorized, drilled, and practiced skills like sight words in order to remember them.  Currently, in education, it feels like we always have to be on stage with flashy dance numbers, costume changes, and multiple belting songs.  However, it doesn’t always have to be that way.  Sure, some of your whole group lessons may fall into that category.  Yet, what about your small groups or center work?  Provide your primary students that opportunity to not only drill and practice, but experience these 27 engaging and fun Sight Word Centers!

I love to find opportunities for my students to apply what I have taught them.  To see students take that whole group lesson and generalize it to another subject or another day is just magical.  My “proud papa” moments.  I don’t know how your curriculum is set up or your literacy blocks.  However, unfortunately, mine lacks a focus on sight words.  Research shows that sight words help build better, more fluent, efficient readers.  So if the curriculum isn’t addressing it, where can I?  How about my centers?!?   These minimal to no-prep center ideas will truly bring a no-stress feeling this school year!

1. Being a Good Detective

Who ever thought that something so small as a magnifying glass could change an entire activity?  Well, that is what I found.  When I teach word problems, I use a detective strategy that I teach in steps.  When I introduce this topic we talk about “What a detective is? Does?”  My past students always brought in the topic of a magnifying glass to hunt for clues.  So I bought a few magnifying glasses (aff) for math and word problems.  The students went nuts over it!

Now I am so happy that my magnifying glasses are no longer collecting dust for those few lessons on word problems and science experiments.  They are being put into good use weekly with these awesome I Spy Hidden Pictures!  Students will get the opportunity to be true detectives hunting for their sight words in the cute picture.  Be careful because they are hidden pretty well!  The best part is that those early finishers can go back and color in the picture.

2. Create Automaticity 

The goal and purpose of sight words are to recognize them, well… by sight to help them become more efficient readers. Teaching sight words in a whole group scenario may be a bit challenging to make exciting.  Typically it may be more of a flash card scenario where the students see the word, hear the word, and say the word approach.  Can I make it a bit more exciting?

That’s where my giant fly swatters (aff) came in.  I like to write a bunch of sight words scattered on my chalkboard.  In two teams, my students come up two at a time (one from each team) with their fly swatter.  When I state the word the first person to swat the sight word gains a point for their team.  I love this activity because not only is it a game and fun, it creates automaticity.  It is great for sight words, but you can also use it for any other topic like vocabulary, real/nonsense words, math facts, and more!

Now that my students understand the concept of swatting sight words, they can now complete it in a small group center!  How cool is it that I can continue playing the game whole group and then the students can independently practice in their centers for reinforcement?!

3. Fluency with Sight Words

When I introduce a new sight word, I am always on the hunt for some tangible worksheet or activity.  The purpose is for students to apply their knowledge, apply skills.  Yet, I get a little tired of taking the time to google each word, paging through each page on Teachers Pay Teachers just to find a good one.

I get so excited when students are finally able to identify their sight words.  However, I go B-A-N-A-N-A-S when they are able to read it in a connected text!  An educator’s goal is for students to generalize the skill and apply it, correct?  So, our next step after introducing a sight word is to focus on it within the text.

With these sight word passages, I cut out hours of planning each year!  These pages allow my students to practice these new sight words!  Grab those highlighters and not only will your students practice their reading and fluency skills, but sight words too!  I like to have my students read the passage through first.  Then, during the second reading, they will use their highlighters to find the targeted word.

Be sure to check out #18 to see how I pair Sight Word Booklets to these passages!

4. Learning How to Code

STEM is all the rage in my school district these past few years. I’m going to be a bit honest… it’s intimidating to me.  However, over the past few years, I am surprised by how many activities can fall into this subject.  I fell in love with STEM and Story and EOY STEAM Challenges last year that I am beginning to actually look for STEM activities now!  Who would have ever thought?!?

Begin a coding dialogue with this Sentence Coding Activity!  As you can see in the photo students will have to use the key included to figure out each sentence on the page.  Each picture corresponds to a letter.  Each sentence includes a targeted or reviews a sight word!  That’s a win-win!

You can even take it a step further and have your students create their own sight word sentences by drawing the code that corresponds to their sentence. They can trade with a partner and see if they can decipher the created sentence.  It is a great extension activity for your higher-level students.

5. Have a BALL with Sight Words!

Sight words don’t have to be just a rote memorized activity.  You can make a game out of it!  One thing I love to do in my classroom is play games and move (my students definitely don’t mind it either)!  Might as well do both with this activity! 

Have a beach ball lying around the room?  If not, you can always grab some here (aff). Write some sight words onto the beach ball. 

Have your students stand in a circle.  I like to have students hit the beach ball back and forth within the circle while playing music.  When the music stops, the next person the ball is hit to must catch it.  Wherever their thumb lands, that is the word they must identify.  You can challenge your students by asking them to use it in a sentence or even spell it!

6. Choice is a Powerful Tool 

Providing choice is my number one behavioral strategy!  When students (and even adults) have a choice in an activity they are more likely to follow through with it.  These amazing Sight Word Menus do just that!  Just looking at the picture below that I included, students can use pom-poms, play dough, letter magnets, and even letter tiles to make the sight word: “the”.

I like to have an option and choice myself.  I can place this page in my centers and have students focus on one word in isolation.  However, as a review, I could also have several of these pages with different words and allow my students to have a choice.  Their choice is to pick one square off of each sight word present.  So they are spending their time appropriately in the center rotation by making each sight word once (or more than once if time still allows).  

7. I LOVE Bingo Daubers! 

Does anyone else enjoy bingo daubers (aff)?  No? Just me??  I like them because it just provides another fun and colorful way to complete an activity.  In small groups, I like to have a few different colors.  Sometimes I use them to work on grammar… dab the noun blue, the adjective yellow, a verb green.  Other times I have Elkonin boxes and we dab the sounds of the words first before the additional practice of bringing a counter up into the box.

Now, I have another great activity that we can bring those daubers out for!  As you can see in the photo below; each bubble has a different sight word inside.  The goal is that your students will be able to locate and dab the focus word in these fun Poppin’ Sight Word Bubbles!

8. Bringing a Digital Aspect to your Sight Word Practice 

It has been a personal goal of mine to bring more technology into the classroom.  I personally struggle with technology and usually have to ask a student for assistance when something isn’t working.  Yes, they usually know more than I do, so it is the perfect “we are learning from each other” situation.

Sight Word Sentence Mats are a digital aspect that I don’t have to worry about.  They are easy to manipulate and engaging to complete!  Students will click and drag the word to finish each sentence along with typing in the targeted sight word!  There are picture cues to assist in finishing the sentence and additional practice for fluency.

9. Small Group Games

Social Emotional Learning (SEL) is so important to incorporate into each day.  Surprisingly enough, it is very easy to sprinkle different SEL activities throughout the entire day!  Beginning the day with a morning meeting check-in will start the day off on the right foot.  Simple check-ins throughout the day during transitions (thumbs up/thumbs down), feelings activities, and playing games.   Yes, I said games!

Playing games in centers like these Sight Word File Folder games offer an opportunity to teach and learn several SEL areas.  Taking turns, appropriate winning and losing, coping skills, patience, and more.

10. Shine “A Light” on a Sight Word

Ready to brighten your students’ minds?!?   Well, more so than you already do that is! How many of you have flashlight Fridays?  You know, the time when you get to turn off all the lights in the classroom, provide your students with flashlights (aff), and allow them to read in the dark?  

Well, I did that for several years and thought…great those flashlights sit in a container until the few times a month I use them on Fun Fridays.  How else could I put those flashlights to good use?

What about with my sight words!?!  I write my targeted sight words on index cards.  Then I like to scatter them about the room (or area of the room).  Students will take turns, one to two at a time, to be challenged to find the sight word by shining their flashlight onto the card.  

You can even make a game out of it by having two teams and players would gain a point by finding the correct card first.

11. “Let Them Eat Cake!”

Figuratively, not literally of course.  Unless you want to sugar your kiddos up, then of course do it at the end of the day! I hope you have learned a bit about me and how I love to incorporate hands-on activities for my students. What kid doesn’t enjoy cake?  I am sure you are already over hearing when their birthday is, or how old they are.  I don’t know what it is, but kids LOVE to tell their age.  When they ask me, how old am I?  I feel like Mary Poppins, saying “Just the right age”.

Let’s use this birthday dialogue to our advantage with a Sight Word Cake center!!   Each student in the center takes a delicious piece of cake!  Now is their opportunity to share those special facts about them!  Based upon their age, that will indicate how many candles they put on their cake.  Can they read and write the candles that they will receive to put on their cake?  Extend this activity by having them make a cake for their brother/sister, a friend, or even a pet!

12. Comprehension and Sight Words 

Naturally, as educators, after we read a passage or story…we always ask some questions about what we read.  It is just natural.  On the spot, we try to make up a question.  Usually, we stick to the simple 5 W’s.  It is easier for us, yet our students need higher-order comprehension exposure.  Some mornings I cannot think on my feet for those opportunities and do I really want another task on my planning plate to think of comprehension questions for a future story?

Now you can tie in comprehension, fluency, AND sight words with these Sight Word Fluency Passages.  The photo is the perfect example of a finished fluency passage!  Each passage has four focus sight words that your students can find and highlight in the passage.

First, I would have my students highlight (or color over lightly with a color crayon) each of the four target sight words.  Next, I would have my students read the entire passage (no highlighting, no writing, just reading).  Then, I would have my students re-read the passage, however, this time they would highlight the targeted sight words found in the text.  Be sure that they are highlighting the appropriate color that matches each sight word.  I have found that it is best for some students to re-read it several times focusing just on one sight word alone at a time.

Once complete, the goal is to be able to answer the four comprehension questions below.  Best practice is your students can return to the passage to assist with answering the questions!

13. Practice Makes Perfect

You know the popular saying: “Practice Makes Perfect”.  I want my morning work to be meaningful not just “busy work” to keep my students occupied while I take attendance, hand out breakfast, check folders, lunch counts, and the ten other things I need to do before 8:40 AM!  I think I found my answer…

Sight Word Printables!  Available with all the Fry Words from 1 through 300!  As you see in the example photo, each page has several opportunities to practice the targeted sight word.  From find its, writing opportunities, syllable counting, fill in the blanks, and more.  They are sure to provide the additional practice students need to become fluent!

14. Spell it Out 

As an educator, one thing I look for in a resource is that I can use it for multiple purposes.  I am going to let you in on a BIG secret!  I use Education to the Core’s Editable Spelling resource for SIGHT WORDS!!   Shhhhhh!

Editable Spelling is just an amazing resource that offers tons of opportunities for students to practice and apply their spelling words for the week.  Now, instead of inserting my spelling list into the editable option, I type in sight words instead!  However, this resource just keeps getting better and better!  ETTC just updated this resource to include holiday themes (like the spooky picture below) and more engaging activities!

15. Stamp the Word

Not ready to give up that summer feeling yet?  Bring the beach into the classroom!  This idea came to me because I have a beach theme in my classroom.  I thought, what activities can I do to bring my room theme to life? 

How about adding some real sand to your sensory box, table, or even just a tray?  Several years ago, I bought a bunch of small silver trays at the Dollar Store.  I love to use them for numerous activities, whether it be magnet letters, sand writing, and even now sand stamping!  

I got these awesome letter stampers (aff) off of Amazon and am obsessed! Allow students to use their fingers or stampers to write and spell sight words!  Practice/review sight words by stamping, writing, and shaking to erase! 

Looking for some more “out of the box” writing opportunities?  You’ll want to check out 13 Fun Ways to Get Reluctant Writers Writing.

16. “Fall” Into the Season with Sight Words

I am such a themed person and love a good theme, inside the classroom and out!  Whether a seasonal, holiday or a random theme I am ALL in!  Sometimes I go a bit too far to even make dinner parties a themed event!  Have you ever made a dinner that matched the movie you were scheduled to watch that night?  It is tons of fun!

In the classroom, I am all about my monthly packets!  These cross-curricular packets offer multiple opportunities for your students all within the monthly theme!  Whether you are looking for phonics review, math concepts, science, or even social studies this packet has it and more!  Taking a peek into the color by sight word world you will find this Pumpkin Color by Sight Word worksheet and more!  Great for morning work, centers, whole group/small group, early finishers, and even home connections!

17. Interest-Based Learning 

There are multiple opportunities throughout the day where we can connect with our students.  From the moment they walk through the door, until they walk out at the end of the day we want our students to learn, to be happy, to learn.  I had a student last year who really disliked school.  He fought his family every Monday and cried throughout the day.  I tried everything I could to make a connection with this student, but I was struggling.  I learned that on the weekends he went fishing with his dad and grandfather.  On Fridays, that is all he talked about.  On Mondays that is what he cried talking about.  Alright… I know NOTHING about fishing, so I learned how to do it and brought some fishing into the classroom!

Over the weekend I cut out fish shapes and wrote some words on them and added a paperclip.  I tied a piece of string to a stick with a magnet at the end and BOOM – fishing rod!  Monday came and after asking everyone how their weekend was, I shared that I went fishing over the weekend!  My student with wet eyes began to smile and lighten up.  After he saw the fishing rod I made he volunteered to go first and smiled for the first Monday!

It is finding those opportunities to build appropriate relationships.  Even if it is something you don’t know a lot about, you can learn.  It is as easy as having a Fishing Center for Sight Words!

18. It’s All in the Tactile Learning

One thing that I have found over my years in the classroom is that when students are able to use their hands they are more likely to remember the expected goal of the lesson. So far on this list, I spoke about bingo daubers, magnifying glasses, and even computers. What about play dough?

Remember the Sight Word passages from #3?  What if I said that there were matching booklets to go along with them?  I took a look at these sight word booklets and added a piece of fine motor!  After the student reads through the booklet, using playdough they can form the sight word on the cover.

19. Color By Number

I have another confession to make:  “Hello, my name is Chris and I used to think that Color By Number was artsy and not academic.”

*GASP*

Yes, I admit it.  I didn’t think Color By Number was academic in nature. The student just follows the number in the key to color the picture.  Right?   Well, yes…however, it is more than just that!  For my classroom, I chose color by numbers (or color by skill) based on concepts we recently covered like the Sight Word owl picture below. I used them for station work, morning work, and even partner work at times. I took the time to look for ones aligned with the skills/standards. At ETTC we have sets aligned to skills for Kindergarten through 3rd grade!

20. Multi-Sensory Writing with Sight Words

Have you ever thought about or used shaving cream in the classroom before?   It is a staple in my room and so many of my teacher friends knock on my door if they run out mid-activity!  I am sure to have a can or two in my cabinets!  When I first introduce it to my students they have the most curious face and the pure look of shock when I spray it on their desks is hilarious!  

By stating clear expectations from the beginning, it is sure to be a stress-free and fun activity that your students AND YOU will enjoy!  (Also, it makes the room smell great!)  I have the discussion of starting to use a couple of fingers to spread the cream across their desk.  It is important to listen and not “play” in their shaving cream because it will disappear and they won’t be able to receive another squirt!  If we all listen and try our best with today’s sight words then they will have a few minutes, in the end, to be able to play and draw in the shaving cream!  

With one finger your students can write the sight word in the shaving cream.  After a quick walk around to check on progress, you can prompt your scholars to “erase” by using their hands to spread the shaving cream around again.

21. Get Up and Move Around

I LOVE having my students move around the room!  It is so beneficial for students to get up and move while being actively engaged with an activity.  It is a natural brain break, but with a purpose!   Write the Room is the perfect match for these “academic breaks”!  I love when students have clipboards, are able to move about the room and even work together!  I even like to “hide” the words in a way that may make it a bit more challenging for my students. Whether you are searching for math, phonics, ELA, and even sight wordsWrite the Room has those subjects and more!

However, I know that moving around the classroom isn’t for everyone.  Some educators prefer a more structured activity and that is okay.  You’ll definitely want to add #22 to your toolkit!

22. I Have a Great Resource, Who Wants it? 

If moving around the room isn’t for you…then here is another option for you!  I Have, Who Has is a great activity that you can play a couple of different ways!  You can have the cards laid out on the table during your center and/or small group where students need to find the next card.  Or you can provide a card to each student, in whole group.  They will have to go in order to figure out who has the next card in “I Have, Who Has?”.

Naturally, since I like moving around the room so much… I adapted that concept just a bit.  Very much like a ‘write the room’ activity I scatter the cards about the room.  Students will find the next card throughout the room, but there is a small task like writing the sight word on the I Have Who Has card to manipulate the sight word in some way (tangram, bingo dauber, play-dough, etc.).

23. Keep it Relevant

I have a secret to share… I really dislike pop-its!  However, they are all the craze currently so I am sucking it up and using them to my advantage!

Sometimes, we have to fold into the latest popular craze.  I learned Pokemon characters’ names.  The basic rules in Minecraft.  What the next popular video game was and even the latest movies coming out!  Now…pop-its!  I am all about fidgets in the classroom and allowing students to have whatever they may need to assist with them focusing, but really?  EVERY student in my room needs a pop-it… and oh yeah, they just keep getting bigger and bigger each week!

Here is an activity that I can get behind with pop-its (aff)!  Pop A Sight Word uses the ever-popular fidget item, but with a purpose!  Allow your students to pop, write, and color as we practice our sight words together in this center!

24. Make it Yourself (with some help)

Have you ever made something with your own hands to use in the classroom?  Absolutely, we are teachers!!  Sometimes if we cannot find a worksheet or a resource to use – we make our own!  However, I don’t have the time to do that for every single subject and lesson.  I remember I made a caterpillar out of a pringles can to go along with the story of “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” by Eric Carle (aff) and printed off the food cards.  Students can “feed” the caterpillar the food to focus on the sequence by placing the food card into its mouth that I cut out the pringle can lid.   I thought I was the coolest teacher ever!

Now, I can create my own resource without having to shove an entire can of pringles into my mouth! Now I can create my own engaging resource in a few minutes compared to hours of cutting, laminating, and eating. Editable Color by Code is that resource that you can make whatever you want or need an activity for.  Whether you want to focus on sight words, spelling, phonics or more this resource is that adaptable!  Type in the subject matter and you have several color-by-code pictures like the ants below!  Now I can sit back, relax and enjoy a few chips!

25. Cross-Curricular Activities

Last week, my lesson went off-track, but I was totally okay with it!  We were reading two stories in our series and students were asked which one they liked better and why.  So what did I do?  I brought MATH into my reading block!  We tallied their answers and made a bar graph to compare the results!

I love cross-curricular opportunities, both planned and unplanned.  What if I asked you how can you connect math and sight words?  (Hint: Check out the picture included)  Roll A Sight Word offers students to read and write their sight words based on the number that they roll on the dice.  Number recognition and subitizing the dots on the dice will indicate the code and sight word to write using different art mediums.

26. Creating Community 

I already shared some thoughts on SEL and building positive relationships with our students.  Focusing on community provides students with a sense of belonging.  My goal each year is to ensure that every child that walks through my door has a place.  Not only a place in my heart but a place in our community.  They should see themselves in the classroom, from the items I have on our walls, the books we read, and the activities we complete. I like to not only focus on our classroom but our building as well.  I look for community opportunities that students can have pride in. So how about a community garden? Rock garden that is!

Time for a nature walk!  Get your class up and moving and go for a little walk while hunting for some rocks.  Once you find them, allow your students to use chalk to write or paint sight words on the rocks.  Create a “sight word” rock garden together as a class. It is important to have a discussion about the dos and do nots while using the rocks.  Do write and find, don’t throw or toss!

27. No More Searching for Engaging Activities on Your Own!

One thing I learned since joining Education to the Core two years ago is that I am not alone. I just talked about community in #26, however, I realized we are both in an amazing community of our own.  The community of Teaching Trailblazers.  We are here for each other with questions, support, and activities we share.  You may already be part of our Facebook community in either or all of our groups: Fearless Kindergarten Teachers, Fearless First Grade, and Fearless Second Grade.

There is no more “searching” for engaging activities.  We can just search for Sight Words instead!  Direct from our September packets, students can complete a word find on sight words!  Let them do the searching… you have enough to do.  Grab a Premium Membership of your own and simply type in the topic you need resources for!  Wait until you see the numerous possibilities!

Wow!  Who ever knew there were that many things you could do with one sight word?!  I know some of my personal favorites were Write the Room (#21) and I Spy Hidden Sight Words (#1).  What about yours?  Are there any off of this list that you are going to be downloading and using this upcoming week?  Remember, you don’t have to just choose one!  With an Education to the Core Premium Membership, you can have them ALL and MORE for one low monthly or annual price!

Do you have any fun and interactive activities you incorporate sight words with?  Be sure to comment and share your great ideas, who knows you may be featured in an upcoming blog!  I hope you have a wonderful school year and remember we are here for all your educational needs for you to have a better work-life balance!  You deserve it!

Written By – Christopher Olson

 

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