Six Sight Vocabulary Play Ideas (Learn to Read in a Playful way)

Last week, J adopted a new friend into the family and took his responsibility of helping Ted not to feel lonely very seriously. To find out what happened you can view the post here… As J was so kind to Ted, Ted decided he would repay the favour and help J learn to read!  J is showing a very keen interest in learning and as the interest has come completely from him, I am happy to support him with it.  If J wasn’t ready or interested, I would definitely NOT be forcing this on him!

Caring Bear Precious Play2

One of the most boring yet VERY necessary parts to learning to read is learning sight vocabulary.  These are the words that appear most frequently in the English language and children need to recognise by sight and therefore learn by heart as opposed to sounding them out phonetically. There are A LOT of sight words and therefore, this will be an on-going process for years to come yet. I really do not want J to be expected to sit down with a box of words and just repeat, repeat, repeat as I remember doing as a child.  I want it to be as fun, playful and active as possible. So here are six simple ideas for beginning this process.

Letter from Ted:

I used:

  • a letter and envelope
  • one of J’s favourite stories
  • a box

Sight Vocabulary Play Ideas

When J arrived home from nursery last week, he was greeted with his first present from Ted. Inside the box was a letter saying,

To Joshua,

Thank you for letting me live with you and for looking after me. I think the bed is so comfortable and cosy. To show you I am so happy, I am going to help you learn to read. For your first present, I am giving you the best book ever to read with Mummy and some new words.    you     and     the       Love Ted x x x

In the letter, all the words J had for his ‘present’ were written in red to highlight them.

You’ll see in the collage of photo’s below that J loved opening the letter and as I read it to him, I over emphasized the highlighted words.  After a couple of reads, I asked J to point to the word ‘you,’ ‘and,’ and ‘the.’ We then sat down for a cuddle and we read the Gruffalo together.  Whenever one of his ‘new words’ featured in the book, I would pause and let J say the word:  not every time, but fairly frequently so that J had a chance to ‘rehearse’ reading.  He loved it.  As he knows the story so well, this helped him immensely.  After we read the story, J wanted to ‘read’ it himself.  He recited the bits he knows by heart and was super proud of himself for ‘reading’ all by himself.  As we looked through the book, I pointed to each word as I said it.  This will reinforce to J that each, separate word has it’s own meaning.  It also meant he was able to see his ‘new words’ more easily.  There was no pressure with this.  It was merely a basic introduction for J to know he has words to learn.

Sight Vocabulary Play Ideas10

Now that the introduction to his new words was complete, J’s next present on the following day was a little activity Ted had left for him.

I used:

  • cards with his new words written on
  • Stones and glass pebbles with new words written on
  • a plastic tray
  • three pots labelled with each of his new words

I wanted this to be an open-ended activity and had in mind that J would potentially sort the words into the pots.

Sight Vocabulary Play Ideas6

J began by looking through the pebbles.  He then laid the pebbles and cards out in front of the pots rather than inside as I had thought he would.  This actually worked out better as he was constantly looking at the words.  Once he had sorted them, he ran his finger down the list and said, ‘and, and, and, and…’ for each of them.  As he said it faster and faster, he giggled harder and harder! He thought this was very amusing.  As he sorted the words, he also held them up saying, ‘look they match,’ ‘they’re the same…’ and so on.

Again this is a very basic activity but it gives J exposure to his new words and getting him seeing them and saying the word over and over is basically what will make them stick in his head in the end.

Sight Vocabulary Play Ideas11

I was very keen to give J three more words, not because I want to rush him… that is definitely not the case.  I wanted to be able to use captions and simple sentences for J to really feel like he is reading.  Using three words this not really possible but with six words, it is amazing what you can come up with! Winking smile

Therefore, on the third day, J received another letter from Ted with three new words!  The letter said,

To Joshua, Well done! You have done so well learning your new words… and    the    you  Here are three new words for you!   can    me    play    Love Ted x x x

With the letter was another present…

I used:

  • plastic shot glasses
  • sticky labels
  • gift box
  • lolly sticks
  • permanent marker

Sight Vocabulary Play Ideas5

On each of the shot glasses, I put a sticky label and one of the words J is learning. On each of the lolly sticks, I also put the words.  On the other side of the lolly sticks, I put six different captions/sentences for J to read.

They said:

you and me

can you play?

you and me can play.

Joshua can play.

me and you

you and me

Sight Vocabulary Play Ideas7

I presented J with the box, letter and lolly sticks (word side up) and let him do whatever he wanted.  To begin with J pointed at the words and said them aloud or asked if he couldn’t remember what they said.  Next he lined up the lolly sticks and shot glasses matching the words.  He also enjoyed the fact that even with the shot glasses over the top of the lolly stick he could still see each word twice as the glasses are transparent.  Finally, J surprised me by making a sentence himself with the glasses, he put them in a row and said, ‘can you play?’ GOBSMACKED!!!

Sight Vocabulary Play Ideas12

He surprised me again by going to get his pirate sticker chart (free from a book he got for Christmas) and peeled the labels from the shot glasses and putting them on his sticker chart.  He said he wanted the poster up in his room to ‘help me!’

Sight Vocabulary Play Ideas2

Later, we played with the lolly sticks, looking at both sides.  He enjoyed reading the sentences, sometimes with my help and other times independently.  There are two words that just aren’t sticking at the moment, ‘the’ and ‘me’ so we will keep on playing with these words until he knows them by sight and without hesitation.  The nice thing about the lolly sticks is they are small enough to go wherever we go.  J has put them in his pocket for walks and all sorts.

Sight Vocabulary Play Ideas14

There have been a lot of sitting activities, so I wanted to get J moving.  These two games are also great for gross motor control and coordination.

I used:

  • bean bags  (could easily use rolled up socks if you do not have bean bags)
  • three tubs labelled with one word J is learning

Sight Vocabulary Play Ideas9

J was SUPER excited by this game and really enjoyed tossing the bean bags especially when it landed inside the tub!  Basically, I said a word, e.g. ‘play,’ J told me what colour the tub was with ‘play’ on and aimed his beanbag to that tub.  Sometimes it took several attempts to get it in and I would ask, ‘what word are you aiming for?’   This again ensured J got lots of repetition and exposure to the words he is learning all whilst playing! An obligatory high five took place after each successful shot and that was enough to keep J interested for AGES!!

Sight Vocabulary Play Ideas15

A slight twist on the above game… I used:

  • a ball
  • three tubs (on their side this time) labelled with the other three words J is learning

Sight Vocabulary Play Ideas8

This time, I would say a word and J rolled the ball into the target! Again, lots of excitement, repetition and successful learning through play! J is getting really good with these words although ‘the’ and ‘me’ are still a bit of a stumbling block for him.  This doesn’t matter though as it is being taught in a non-threatening, playful and enjoyable way! J doesn’t mind that he doesn’t remember them as easily as the others and he is happy to keep playing!

Sight Vocabulary Play Ideas16

As I said, this is going to be a long journey whilst learning his sight words and so there will be other posts and games for this to give you ideas (hopefully!)  This week, I aim to continue with the six words above but I will be putting together a group of ideas to teach him to sound out words using his phonic knowledge… so the non-sight vocabulary!



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