How To: Build Sight-Word Vocabulary With the Reading Racetrack

Learning Spark Blog: Jim WrightStudents can acquire sight-word vocabulary in a fun, gamelike format using Reading Racetracks (Rinaldi, Sells, & McLaughlin, 1997). The student reads aloud from a 'racetrack' wordlist for 1 minute, records that reading performance, and repeats the wordlist reading until reaching a pre-set criterion.


Materials. To use the Reading Racetrack, the tutor will need these materials:

Preparation. To prepare for a session:

  1. The tutor compiles 4 short word-lists. The tutor creates 4 lists of seven words each from the master sight-word list, with no word appearing on more than one list.

  2. The tutor fills out 4 'target' versions of the Reading Racetrack For each of the 4 lists, the tutor fills out a copy of the Reading Racetrack, copying one word into each numbered blank and repeating them in random order until all 28 blanks of the Racetrack are filled in. (NOTE: When a 'target' Racetrack form is completed, each word from the seven-word list associated with it should appear 4 times on the sheet.) The tutor checks the appropriate checkbox on the Racetrack  to identify it as a 'target' version of the sheet.

  3. The tutor fills out a culminating 'review' version of the Reading Racetrack. The tutor copies the words from all 4 word-lists (7 words per list; 28 items in all) onto a single Racetrack form in random order. The tutor checks the appropriate checkbox on the Racetrack to identify it as a 'review' version of the sheet.

Directions. Here are directions for administering a single ('target' or 'review') Reading Racetrack.

  1. The tutor provides directions. The tutor gives the student a copy of a Reading Racetrack filled out with sight words. The tutor tells the student that he or she will have 1 minute to read off as many words from the Racetrack sheet as possible. If the student is able to complete the circuit, reading all 28 words on the sheet before the time expires, he or she is directed to continue reading words in sequence from the Racetrack sheet until told to stop.

  2. The tutor administers the timed Racetrack and records student performance. The tutor says to the student, "On your mark, get set...go!" and starts the stopwatch.  As the student reads words aloud, the tutor records any errors. The tutor also tracks the number of complete circuits the student is able to make around the Racetrack (with each circuit signifying 28 words attempted). If the student hesitates for longer than 3 seconds on any word, the tutor states the correct word, directs the student to the next word, and records the hesitation as an error. At the end of one minute, the tutor tells the student to stop reading and puts a check next to the final word read. 

  3. The tutor and student tally and record the student's score. The tutor prompts the student to tally the total number of words read correctly and shares with the student the number of errors observed. The tutor has the student record both the number of correctly read words and errors on the Reading Racetrack Score Sheet. NOTE: The tutor also has the option of copying specific error words into the space marked 'Practice Words' on the Reading Racetrack Score Sheet. 

  4. The student practices error words. The tutor engages the student in error correction. For each error word from the reading, the tutor (a) points to the word and says it aloud, (b) has the student say the word in unison with the tutor, (c) has the student say the word aloud independently, and (d) has the student repeat the word correctly 3 times in succession. 

  5. The student repeats the Racetrack until reaching criterion. The tutor has the student continue timed readings of the current Reading Racetrack using the procedures described above until the student either (1) reads at least 90 words correctly in 1 minute, or (2) has attempted the Racetrack list a total of 5 times.

Steps. Here are the steps for completing a full Racetrack session. With guidance from the tutor:

  1. The student completes 4 'target' Racetracks. The student completes each of 4 'target' Racetrack sheets as explained above.

  2. The student completes the culminating 'review'  Racetrack. At the end of the session, the student completes a 'review' Racetrack sheet as explained above.


  • Rinaldi, L., Sells, D., & McLaughlin, T. F. (1997). The effect of reading racetracks on the sight word acquisition and fluency of elementary students. Journal of Behavioral Education, 7, 219-233.