Sight Word Basketball

I am excited to share a new sight word game that I created last week which was a rousing success with my kids!  I wanted to come up with a way to practice sight words that involved movement and fun.  Sight words themselves can be pretty boring unless we give them a spark, so that was my goal.

Sight word basketball was born.  I began with a bag of those small plastic balls similar to the ones you would find in a ball pit.  I had 100 balls total in six different colors.  I then selected the sixteen most challenging sight words from our list.  (I did not choose “a,” for example, but I did choose “said.”)  I then wrote each of the sixteen words on to each color of ball.  In other words, I created six different sets of the sight words.  I placed each set in a shallow tray (I had some trays, and used copy paper box lids for the rest.)




I then taped six squares around the perimeter of my meeting area.  I had one square for each ball color. Finally, I placed a large tub in the middle of the meeting area to act as the basketball hoop.


To prepare for score keeping, I created a simple grid on my whiteboard like this:


Now for the game play.   I divided my kids into six teams, one per color.  They each had a designated table in the room which was their base, and this is where their tray of balls stayed.  I told the kids they had to determine an order in which they would take turns, and they were responsible for remembering the order.

For each round of play, I called out a sight word.  All of the teams simultaneously began looking for the ball with that word written on it in their tray.  They worked together as a team to find the correct ball, which was nice support for my lower readers.  Once they found the correct ball, their designated “thrower” for that round had to go to their team’s color square on the carpet and toss their ball into the tub.




Since all six teams were working at the same time, it was my job to keep track of the order in which they made baskets.  To facilitate score keeping I held six small pieces of construction paper.  As I saw the baskets being made, I just placed the papers in order.  That way I could easily keep track of who made it in first, second, and so on.  If a child missed the basket, they retrieved their ball to try again.

Once all teams made their basket, I added points on the board.  Six points for the first basket, five for the second, and so on, all the way down to one point for the last basket.  This way, every team earned at least one point every round.  This helped to ensure that no team was ever completely out of the running.

Play continued like this, with new kids taking turns tossing the ball each round.  After each round I checked the balls to be sure that every team had found the correct word, and then emptied the bucket for the next round.


Teams could lose points for running, screaming, or unsportsmanlike behavior.  One or two deductions for running, and they were careful as could be!

We played until we were running out of time.  Then I gathered the kids at the carpet, and together we counted up the tally marks to discover our winner.


While the initial explantation of the game may sound a bit complex, this was a glorious experience in my class.  The kids understood.  They worked collaboratively.  They practiced sight words, underhand throwing, tallying, counting by fives, and sequencing numbers.  They said things like, “Good game.”  They begged to play again the next day.  It was glorious.

How do you make sight word work engaging?


14 Responses to Sight Word Basketball

  1. Lily January 14, 2013 at 11:59 am #

    Hi, I am Lily. I really like your blog it’s got quite a lot to it and it looks amazing.
    Heres a link to my blog
    Keep on blogging!

  2. Audrey February 20, 2013 at 6:26 pm #

    What a great game! I would love to try it with my kinder class. Where did you find those balls?

    • Teaching Ace February 20, 2013 at 8:31 pm #

      I got a bag of 100 balls from Meijer (it is similar to Walmart, and I imagine Walmart carries them as well.) The bag was $17, and was in the toy section. They are the same ones that people use for baby/toddler ball pits. Let me know how it goes if you give it a try.

  3. dawn May 19, 2013 at 6:20 pm #

    LOVE THIS idea! where do I find these small plastic balls at?

    • Karen Langdon May 19, 2013 at 8:05 pm #

      Thanks! I got mine at Meijer, which is similar to Walmart. I am sure Walmart carries them as well. They are the balls used to fill those play ball pits. Have fun!

  4. Jessica August 4, 2013 at 12:18 pm #

    For HS ELA class, call out definition and groups determine word from those on balls. Fun activity!

    • Karen Langdon August 4, 2013 at 12:21 pm #

      Great idea! So many things that work with younger children can be adapted for older students. When something is fun, it is fun for everyone!

  5. Jan June 29, 2014 at 12:16 am #

    Great game! I’m definitely adding this to my list. Thanks for sharing.

    • Karen Langdon June 29, 2014 at 7:27 am #

      Thanks. It is one of our favorites, and I continue to find more and more ways to adapt it. We have used variations for number ID, addition facts, place value, and telling time! Please let me know how it goes in your class.

  6. Stacey April 6, 2016 at 12:52 am #

    This is a great idea! My kids will LOVE it.


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