My Favorite Sight Word Activity for Whole Brain Learning

learn to read teaching methods Jun 14, 2022

When working on vocabulary/sight words, I have found over the years that the traditional “flash card” system can end up being a bit tedious for my students, and doesn’t engage much more brain work than memory. In teaching, I’ve always preferred to, figuratively, throw all kinds of spaghetti at the fridge to see what sticks! What I mean by this is that, since I historically have taught very diverse groups of learners, one size simply NEVER fits all. How one child sees, learns, and begins to own words for reading and writing is different from that child’s neighbor. By using some different strategies, I have better odds of reaching almost all of my learners rather than only those who respond to one particular method of teaching and practice. 

One way I love to work with words with my students is “Word Clubs.” It really began accidentally as a filler activity before lunch in my class, and then became a weekly routine. I do this during the time I have up to 75 or so students in my room! It’s highly engaging for them, and the activity uses more brain work than the simple flash cards. 

How Does It Work?

  1. Select a number of words to use, depending on your group’s age/skill level. With first graders, we’ll begin with maybe 10 and work up to 20+ as the year goes on. (I prefer to mainly use my So Simple Sight Words “cheer” words for this activity, but I’ll also add weekly reading vocabulary words to the mix from time to time if I see many students aren’t yet comfortable with those words.)

I use magnetized words on my white board so I can move them around, but when I had a Smart Board for a glorious time period, it was a wonderful tool to just move them on the screen with my finger! Whatever way you have to be able to move the words will work. 

  1. Once you have your selected words, read the words with the students. Pick an attribute some of the words have in common, such as vowel a, double consonants, syllables, or number of letters. Group 2 or 3 of those words together, leaving one or more words with the same attribute out of the mix. The difficulty range will depend on your group as well as skills you’re working on. 
  2. Ask the students to look at the words and see what they have in common. What do they have that can be the rule for their club? You can “think pair share” first if you like, or simply call on one student to tell you what the rule is. 
  3. Once the rule is determined correctly, ask the students what other words can “join the club.” Responses may be correct or incorrect, and you can address those in kind. I always like to ask, “Why does that word belong in the club?” so they will repeat the rule. 
  4. When we complete the exercise, we’ll “cheer” our sight words to add one more brain activity to the exercise. 

After we’ve completed one “club,” I’ll often leave those words where they are on the board and begin building another with a new rule. Some of the words from the prior club might belong to the new “club” as well. When we get really experienced, I’ll start Venn diagrams with the words. (This takes more pre-planning than simple clubs.)

Sometimes I’ll ask the students to look at the words and make a rule they’d like to use for a “club.” The students then need to add all the words to this group. 

Here’s some more about Word Clubs!

  • I have individual “Word Club Wednesday” activities on my Instagram page as well as on Pinterest and Facebook.  Plus, complete the form below and I'll email you printable word club activity pages for free.
  • A good basic “whole brain learning” article can be found here.
  • This is a bit of an aside, but If you haven’t looked into it before, check out Brain Gym! There are so many great fundamental tools you can use at home or at school to engage children (and adults!). 


Here’s a sample lesson:

Words I’m using on the board:

these very walk boy from

again every right because their


I separate these two words from the group in a line:




Ask: “What do these two words have in common? Why do they get to be in a club together? What is the club’s rule?”

Answer: “They both have an ‘r.’”

Ask: “So the club rule is the consonant r. What other words can join the club from our list?”

Answers: “every”  “right”  “their”

*I might toss in a non-example once we have a good group of correct club words and ask why this word isn’t allowed in the club to get some lower-level critical thinking in,


Once we have that club done, I’ll start moving words. I leave “very” and add “again.” 

Ask: “What is our new rule?”

Answer: “Two syllables”

Ask” What other words can join our club?”

Answer: “because” 

*Often a child will suggest “every,” so then we can talk more about   syllables. Some great teachable moments often pop up during word clubs!


 You can pre-plan this, or, after a bit, it just becomes instinctive to be able to let it just happen organically.  You can even have students write the words they think will belong in the club and hold up their answers to add more learning modalities to the mix! It’s really engaging for most students. I suggest you try it!

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