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How to Teach Sight Words to Children with Down Syndrome at Home

Updated on February 10, 2018
hsschulte profile image

I love to share lesson plans with other teachers and homeschooling parents.

Sight Word Bingo Card

Sight Word Bingo
Sight Word Bingo | Source

Sight Words

There are standardized lists of sight words, the most common being Dolch and Fry. Both Dolch and Fry sight word lists have several levels. For example, the Dolch sight word set has 40 pre-Kindergarten words and 52 Kindergarten sight words. I use and prefer the Dolch sight word list.

You can use games to successfully teach sight words. Before you get started, however, it's a good idea to try out the games with words that are full of meaning for the child with Down syndrome. Does child have a favorite food? Does the child have a favorite cartoon or book? Who is important in this child's life? Before beginning sight words, using words such as "mom," "dad," "pizza," "Blue's Clues" are great ways to help the child become familiar with these games.

A Few Notes About Making the Games Before We Begin

When a child with Down syndrome is learning words there are a few key ideas that we will always keep in mind.

  1. Print the words in a clear, simple, and large font. The font is important because it changes the way letters look. For example, notice that the letter "t" written in some fonts is bent at the bottom. In other fonts, the bottom of the "t" is straight. Children need to see letters written in a consistent way, so choose the font you plan to use and stick with it. Changing the font may confuse the child. You can use handwritten words, but be sure to write the letters clearly and consistently.
  2. Children with Down syndrome tend to be visual learners. Keep the word cards and games clear and simple! This allows the child to focus only on the words they are learning. You don't want unrelated pictures cluttering up your learning games.
  3. Repetition is the key to learning and retaining information. After you make your games, use them often to practice reading new words.

Matching, Matching, Matching We Will Go

When we begin learning new words, we will start with matching. Two of the best games to match words are lotto and memory.


This is the lotto game being played with photos of family members and matching their name.
This is the lotto game being played with photos of family members and matching their name. | Source


A good lotto game will teach word meaning with a picture.

  1. Make a card with a picture and the word printed under the picture. For example, a picture of a slice of pizza and the word "pizza" written below it.
  2. Make a second card with only the word "pizza." Have the child practice matching the words together. You can see an example of this lotto game with family member matching cards in the photo above.
  3. Have the child practice matching the word cards to the picture cards.

When you are ready to use the preschool sight word list for making lotto cards, you can find those words online:

Dolch Sight Word List for Preschool - 3rd Grade

Start with just a few words at a time. Don't try to master too much at once. As the child gets older and their ability to learn new words progresses, more words can be learned at one time. In the beginning, it's best to start with one or two words being learned at a time.

The word "ball" on the lotto card pictured below is from the Dolch noun sight word list. The child would match a word card with "ball" printed on it to this lotto card.

Lotto Game

Lotto card for the word "ball" from the Dolche "noun" sight word list. Use a separate card with the word "game" printed on it and match it to the word game on this lotto card.
Lotto card for the word "ball" from the Dolche "noun" sight word list. Use a separate card with the word "game" printed on it and match it to the word game on this lotto card. | Source

Let's Play Memory!

Now that the child has played lotto and practiced matching the word to a card with a picture, it's time to move to the next step. Have the child match the words only by playing the memory game.

Print 2 cards for each sight words and cut them out. There is a memory card creator online that allows you to choose from the list of sight words that you want to use. For a young child, start with a game of only 2 words, or 4 cards to match.

Begin with all the cards word side down, so that the words can't be seen. Each player takes a turn by turning over 2 cards. If there is a match, the child gets another turn. If the words don't match turn them back over, word side down. It's the next players turn to try to find a match.


After a child has master matching the word to itself, the next step is teaching the child to identify the word. This can be done using bingo cards. The child has already had plenty practice matching the Dolch preschool sight words using the lotto and memory games. Now it's time to put the word on a bingo card and let the child find it, or identify it, when you call it out.

Make the bingo boards very simple in the beginning. Use only a few words that the child knows well. Incorporate pictures to if needed to make it easier. Learning is supposed to be fun and a child that is frustrated will not enjoy learning, so make it easy enough for them to feel successful and accomplished while playing the game.

As the child progresses through the Dolch word list, add more words to the bingo board. Play and practice often. is a great website for generating bingo cards.


The child has now practiced matching the word with lotto and memory games. The child has practiced identifying the word using bingo boards. Print up some flashcards and have the child practice reading the words from the flashcards. Go in a repetitive order the first few times through the cards. When you are sure the child can read them all without hesitation, mix up the cards and practice them in random order.

A common teaching tool is to create a "word bank." The word bank is full of words that the child knows how to read. Place your flashcards on a ring and you have a "word bank" that allows you to add new words when the child learns a new one.

Word Bank

This is a word bank on a ring. It's used to collect the words that have been learned. Each time the child learns a new sight word, add it to the ring.
This is a word bank on a ring. It's used to collect the words that have been learned. Each time the child learns a new sight word, add it to the ring. | Source

Sight Word Books

Now the child feels confident reading the word and can locate the new word in a book. You can make your own books utilizing the newly learned sight words. You can also read early reading sight word books with your child, encouraging your child to pick out the sight words they know.

I loved the Reading A-Z Preschool level books. Level aa contains books for practicing preschool sight words, including the book "big" and "blue" which are included in the preschool Dolche list.

There are a variety of beginning sight word readers that you can purchase also, such as the one below from Try them and see which work best for your child.

Sight Word Readers

© 2018 hsschulte


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