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March 17, 2020

20 Hands-On Ways to Build a Sight Word, (And Research to Back it Up!)

Today I am pleased to share TWENTY great ideas for building the sight words to help kids learn them in a hands-on way!  Making sight words (AKA high frequency words) in lots of different ways allows kids to choose their best learning modality and really take charge of their own learning. I'm super excited about this way of teaching, and I hope you will be, too!

When my teammate and I do this, we focus on just ONE of the trickier sight words per week and have the kids BUILD JUST THAT ONE WORD over and over again in many ways.  If there happens to be a parent volunteer at that center, they are to ask the children to spell it and tell what the word is often.

This is what our Sight Word Building Table looks like.  We put out a variety of choices, and the children can change seats each time they finish to keep building the word.  If there happens to be a volunteer, she ask them what word they are working on and to spell it, and will hand them a different manipulative.  

This Is Just One Part of Our Sight Word Routine

They are usually at this center independently, but they are encouraged to sing the sight word song to themselves and spell the word as they build it, and say the word when they are done.  Of course, we have introduced the word ahead of time and reviewed it together many times!  I go over all of the sight words on my focus wall every single day, and sing as many of the sight word songs as time permits in our three hour, TK (Transitional Kindergarten) day!  We had time for many more songs in Kindergarten because we were there all day.

You can get these videos via our internet streaming service on Uscreen!  Or, you can purchase them on DVD on our website,

You can always get a 30 day free trial to stream HeidiSongs online on Uscreen, but at the moment we are offering the first month free as well, giving you 60 days free before you would be charged on your credit card.  This is ideal for parents that may want to use HeidiSongs videos with their children during this stressful time, since so many people are stuck inside now due to the Coronavirus.  Those on the free trial can simply cancel the subscription before the card is ever charged!  We do send out a reminder email three days before the card is to be charged, just to let people know that they should either cancel or be charged.  To get the sixty days free trial, use the code HEIDISONGS on a MONTHLY $9.99 subscription.  Offer ends April 18, 2020.

Then, on another day of the week we often build it again in an even more appealing way that EVERYONE will likely want to do, such as with stickers or with play dough!  I do not put out the stickers or play dough on the "sight word multi-sensory table" because if I did, some children may do only that for the entire time, and I really want them to experience the sight word in lots of ways.  Also, both of those items are distracting in and of themselves.  Children will often simply play with the dough rather than make the word, just as they may want to put the stickers elsewhere, or try to make three sticker sight words rather than just one!  (That can get expensive!)  So, we do not do those things every single week.

Seriously, folks!  I have not had any discipline problems at this table, even though the kids normally work there independently.  The only issues that ever arise are over kids wanting to use the same manipulative, and that's rare because there are lots of fun choices.  And the kids know that once they finish a word, they need to move on to another choice.  The most popular choices in my class at this point are the push pins and the magnets that look like push pins!

Research links are at the bottom of this post.

10+ Hands-On Ways to Build a Sight Word

1.  Alphabet Gem Sight Words
These are simply floral accent gems with stickers GLUED right side up onto the bottoms!  I have a complete tutorial on my blog post right here.    The gems can usually be found at the Dollar Tree or any other dollar store, but you do need the larger size.  The only issue is that I typed up the cards with lower case letters, and all of my Alphabet Gems were made with capital letters, because those are the only stickers I could find when I made the gems.  It does throw the kids off a little when they cannot find a letter that matches exactly.  If anyone ever finds some pretty, lowercase alphabet stickers that are about a half an inch across or less, please let me know!
The cards I am using were purchased on TpT here.   These cards are editable, but you cannot change the directions at the top of the cards, nor can you change the font sizes.  Otherwise, I like the set!  It comes with lots of different kinds of cards to print, as you'll see below.

2.  Craft Stick Sight Words
I made this craft stick sight word work mat because I wanted one that the kids could use that would be "to scale" so that they could lay the sticks down right on top of it, and I couldn't find anything like that online.  I also wanted one that was made with both regular sized craft sticks and mini-craft sticks, (instead of regular sized craft sticks that were just broken in half.)  That just doesn't seem to exist, so I made my own.  I even added velcro to the sticks to make it a bit more fun! Click here to find out how to do that.
I'm going to include a few craft stick sight word building mats as a free download, just in case you want to try them out.  The words that have four letters need to be printed on legal sized paper (8.5" x 14"), which is kind of a bummer!  However, most of the words with just three letters will fit on a regular letter sized paper (8.5 x 11".)  My printer wouldn't print that sized paper, so I had to piece it together, as you can see below!  :(

3.  Hashtag Blocks Sight Words 
The photo below shows the word "you" made with PlusPlus blocks, also known as Hashtag Blocks!  These little blocks show up from time to time at the Target Dollar spot, especially when Christmas and Easter are approaching because they make great little gifts.  They generally come in tubes of about 70 blocks, and that's really enough for one person to make a word!
The workmat shown below came from Kelly Haynes at From Kindergarten with Love!  These sight word building cards are a bit more challenging for my little TKs, since they are not printed to scale, and the kids cannot build the words right on top of the card.  However, they are probably exactly PERFECT for Kindergartners!

4.  Hidden Sight Words with Markers
These Hidden Sight Word Worksheets are a fun way to practice both finding the word AND building the word at the same time!  All the kids need to do is find the word and cover it up with either a transparent bingo marker or a floral accent gem.  The worksheets can be done with a crayon too, of course!  But in order to do it with manipulatives, I added a few more of the target word with a black fine tip marker so that it would look more like the word when it was done.  The Hidden Sight Word Worksheets can be found on TpT here, or on our website here.    Both sites have larger packs if the link I provided doesn't have all of the words you need.

5.  Sight Words with Duplo Word Building Blocks
These letter blocks are not actually a Lego brand product, they are from Lakeshore at this link right here!  But that actually only makes me like them MORE, LOL!  Our method is to put out one of every letter in the tray, plus two of each vowel just to cover words like "here."  Then the children have to spend a little bit of time on visual discrimination as they search for the letters!

6.  Pattern Block Sight Words
We have Alphabet Pattern Blocks on our site and on TpT, but not Sight Word Pattern blocks!  I've been trying to figure out how to make a word with pattern blocks fit on one letter sized page and still make it to scale, so that the kids can just lay the blocks on top of the paper to build it.  I can do it with a three letter word, but not a four letter word, unfortunately!  If you would like to try the ones out that I've made, you can download them hereSo far, the rest of the set are not finished yet.

I had to piece the paper together since my printer wouldn't print the legal sized paper.  Darn!

7.  Pompon Sight Words
This is a fun way to practice fine motor skills and build a word at the same time!  Just lay down the pompons on the circles on the letters!  You can give your kids tweezers to encourage them to work on that pincer grasp even more.  Caution:  You will need VERY small pompons for this to work correctly!  You can pick up this product on TpT, right here.

8.  Push Pin Sight Words
Push Pin Sight Words are VERY popular in my classroom!  All you need is a word, some corkboard that is about a half an inch thick, and some push pins!  And yes, I used the same font as the one above, and hopefully it will be ready for you as a product you can purchase soon.  I confess that a parent offered to purchase me some brighter, prettier push pins for this, and I took her up on it.  But they are readily available at the Dollar Tree if you are not too picky about the colors!  And my kids are able to use the same paper with holes in it for all four groups in the AM and in the PM!  You can pick up this product on TpT, right here.

And by the way, I've NEVER had a child poke or stick another child with a pin.  It's NEVER happened ONCE in the three years I've been using the pins with TK kids in my room- although once a child stuck herself with a pin accidentally.

9.  Push Pin MAGNET Sight Words
This is nearly the same activity, but done with push pin MAGNETS!  Kids always seem to love magnets, so this is hit every time!  I just wish I could find some other magnets that were this size and looked a bit different, just for the sake of variety!  I got the magnets on Amazon here.  And again, we are working on this as a product and it will be released soon.  You can get this product here.

10.  Magnetic Letters Sight Words
This is an obvious choice- using magnetic letters to build sight words!  I put out some very old "puzzle letters" that I had purchased many years ago, and don't seem to be available these days.  But you could substitute any magnetic letters that you have.  I do put all of the letters of the alphabet into the basket so that the kids need to do a bit of searching to find the correct letters before building.  The card came from the same set as the card that I used for the Alphabet Gems, right here.

11.  Sight Word String Ups
This is a fun way to make sight words:  just string up the letter beads onto pipe cleaners!  These letter beads can be purchased on Amazon right here.  Again, we only put one of each letter in the basket, (but two of each vowel) and make the kids search for the letters.

12.  Sight Words with Mini Erasers
My kids always choose this, and I think it's because the mini erasers are so colorful and motivating!  But they like it best when the erasers are small enough to fit in the circles, as they do in the first photo below, and not as much when the erasers are a bit too large, as in the second.  You can get this product here.

13.  Sight Words with Alphabet Unifix Cubes
Some companies sell linking cubes with letters printed on them, and you can have your kids link them up to build words.  Another option is to take your own existing linking cubes, and write letters on them!  Either way, it works!  The card came from the same set as the Alphabet Gems Sight Words and the magnetic letters above. 

14.  Sight Word Building with Unifix Cubes
This is another way to use the Unifix Cubes, also known as Snap Cubes or Linking Cubes. You have the kids make letters out of them and then put the letters together to make words.  The picture below is of the workmat, since I didn't manage to catch a photo of the one the kids were making, oops!  I made this one myself, and will include it as a freebie for you.

15.  Wikki Stix Sight Words
Wikki Stix are just pieces of wax covered yarn that kids can use to make things out of!  They are generally great to use, but sometimes kids that enjoy the pressure and feel of them will squish them up into a ball, and they can be difficult to pull back apart.  So be sure to tell them not to do that!  If you have some kiddos that are looking for that kind of sensory input, think about providing something else for that, or perhaps a different set of Wikki Stix for that purpose.  The waxy residue does tend to collect on the page, so I use page protectors for this rather than lamination because it is easier to change out when it gets a little icky.
I often find small packs of Wikki Stix at my local Dollar Store, but here is a pack on Amazon that is also a great deal!  As far as the work mat is concerned, it would also work great for play dough, and it's for sale here.  As I mentioned earlier, I don't put play dough on our sight word building table because the children tend to simply play with it instead of build words with it.  It's just too tempting!

More Fun Ways to Make Sight Words- But NOT Recommended for the "Multi-Sensory Table" Without Adult Supervision

16.  Sticker Sight Words
Stickers are so much fun that my kids would choose to make sight words with stickers over and over again, and ignore everything else.  So I save this activity for a separate day!  All I do is type up the word and have the kids place small stickers on the lines.  You could also use the frame above that I created for play dough or Wikki Stix!  This product is for sale here.

17.  Dot Marker Sight Words
This is such a fun way to practice the words, and it lets the kids get a little artsy, too!  I don't put these dot markers out at our big Multi-Sensory Sight Word Table each week, because they are way too enticing and my kids would probably just do that and nothing else except playdough, lol!  But these are PERFECT for working on sight words on a different day!  This product is for sale here.

18.  PlayDough Sight Words
As mentioned, this is just TOO much fun!  You really have to have an adult there to make sure that they are really working, though...  They can stamp the letters into it or roll the dough into snakes and then form the letters.  And THEN just let them play with it!

19.  Theraputty Sight Words
This is VERY similar to using playdough, but uses Theraputty to strengthen the hands even more.  If you haven't tried Theraputty with your kids yet, let me warn you.  It's "simply irresistible!" We had it out at our Multi-Sensory Alphabet Building Table, and finally had to remove it, because- you guess it- all they did was PLAY with it! (See photo below!) And then arguments arose over kids "hogging it" and not moving on to another item.  Sigh.... So put this one on your list to use with an entire group, under adult supervision.  Or, just let them PLAY with it, right?
FYI: Here is a link to the some from "real" Theraputty.  I have no idea if the knock-offs are any good or not! The different colors indicate how difficult it will be to pull and stretch the putty, with yellow being the easiest on the hands.

Yes, this just a letter, not a word!  Sorry, it's the only photo I have at the moment!  Find out where to get this workmat here.

20.  Kinetic Sand Sight Words
Have you ever met a kid that does NOT like Kinetic Sand?  You can stamp words into it, write words with a stick or pencil into it, or mold the sand into letters or words.  But the only problem is that kids mainly want to play with it!  So save it for a time when you have adult help and can keep an eye on them, or just let them do what kids do naturally- PLAY!
The stampers in the photo below can be found on Amazon.  And the organizational tray came from these magnetic letters I also purchased on Amazon, but since I store my magnetic letters in color sets A-Z in baggies, the plastic organizational tray was empty.

Looking for ways to build the alphabet?  Click here!

Research to Support Building Sight Words in a Multi-Sensory Way

If you are one of those teachers in the sad situation in which your administration requires research to back up things like this because they look like "just fun" (), then you have my sincerest sympathies!  One such teacher asked me if I had any research on it, and so I started searching.  The links that I came up with are below.  I hope this helps you if you need it!

The Effects of Sight Word Instruction on Students' Reading Abilities (Recommends Learning Centers)

The Effects of Manipulatives on Sight Word Recognition 

Teaching Sight Words According to Science

Multiple Activity Literacy Centers: Promoting Choice and Learning Differentiation

The next two links go together.  The first one explains the principles of the Orton-Gillingham method of reading instruction, which is a highly respected and widely used reading intervention program based on solid research; however, the program itself has not been researched.  I hope that makes sense!  So below, you will see the principals that OG employs, and then the research that it is based on.

Orton Gillingham-Principles

How is Orton-Gillingham Evidence Based Reading Instruction?

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