Inside: Learn what Dolch sight words are and if they are still important. Also, get our free PDFs and worksheets for Dolch sight word lists.
In 1936, Edward William Dolch published his list of what he called “Sight Words.” Dolch, an advocate of the ‘whole word reading’ approach, argued that his list of 220 words was used in up to 75% of all school texts, libraries, newspapers, and magazines.
This is why I made sure to point out that the year was 1936.
1. Dolch Sight Words
Ours is a living and constantly changing language. What was common in storybooks then may not be as common for today’s children. I have the Fry 100 Words and worksheets in a separate post.
Critics of this list argue that memorization is tough work for kids. It also discourages decoding and using phonemes.
Sight words are important because they are common words that often appear in written text, and knowing them automatically can improve reading fluency and comprehension.
Because sight words cannot always be sounded out phonetically, memorizing them as whole words is an effective strategy for early readers to build their reading skills.
As a child’s sight word recognition increases, they can focus more on decoding and comprehending more complex words and phrases, making reading more enjoyable and less frustrating.
2. Why are Dolch Sight Words important?
These are still very commonly used words, even if you account for the societal changes since 1936.
Dolch sight words are still important because they are a list of high-frequency words that are commonly used in written English. These words are often difficult to sound out phonetically and can be challenging for beginning readers to decode.
By learning these words as whole units, students can improve their reading fluency and comprehension, and develop a strong foundation for reading and writing. While there are many other sight word lists available, Dolch sight words continue to be widely used and recognized in schools and literacy programs.
The words are still important. But modern-day pedagogy and data tell us that we should teach our kids differently.
3. Teaching Dolch Sight Words
Fifty years ago, children were routinely given flashcards of these sight words and told to memorize them. Now we know that is not possible for all students. Pre-K Dolch Sight Worlds is not as common an activity as in the past, and all student abilities should be considered.
When children were being encouraged to memorize these ‘sight words,’ it was thought that reading would come easier. Since the Dolch list was very commonly used, his philosophy was that if those words were memorized, children could then focus on the other, less familiar, words in the text they were reading.
Again, critics of a ‘whole word approach’ disagree with this.
4. Are Dolch words still taught?
Yes, but with less emphasis on memorization. The list can be quite useful if children are direct taught with an explicit phonics approach.
Phonics is a way of teaching children how to read and write. It helps children hear, identify and use different sounds that distinguish one word from another. Phonics involves matching the sounds of spoken English with individual letters or groups of letters.
5. What ages are Dolch Sight Words for?
Dolch sight words are used in pre-K, kindergarten, and primary grades.
If by 3rd grade, your child is struggling with the Dolch sight words; I strongly suggest an evaluation for learning disabilities. Reading problems tend to explode around 2nd or 3rd grade, and you want to close that gap as soon as possible.
That’s not to say your child should have them memorized by second or third grade. However, he/she should be able to read them by that age. If they cannot, there may be some decoding or phoneme issues.
The Dolch Sight Words worksheets below can help parents and teachers assess a child’s ability.
6. Difference Between Dolch Sight Words and Fry Words
The Dolch list ‘feels’ like it is used more frequently than the Fry list. Though I have no hard data to support that, it’s more common.
The Fry list is 1000 words, so much larger. That can be good and bad, I suppose.
The Dolch sight words list is for grades K-2. Fry is for grades 3-9.
7. What are the Dolch Sight Words?
The list contains 220 service words (non-nouns) plus 95 high-frequency nouns. These words comprise 80% of the words you would find in a typical children’s book and 50% of the words found in writing for adults.
Some teachers use the 1000 Instant Word list prepared in 1979 by Edward Fry instead of Dolch’s list.
8. Dolch list: Service Words
Pre-primer: (40 words) a, and, away, big, blue, can, come, down, find, for, funny, go, help, here, I, in, is, it, jump, little, look, make, me, my, not, one, play, red, run, said, see, the, three, to, two, up, we, where, yellow, you
Primer: (52 words) all, am, are, at, ate, be, black, brown, but, came, did, do, eat, four, get, good, have, he, into, like, must, new, no, now, on, our, out, please, pretty, ran, ride, saw, say, she, so, soon, that, there, they, this, too, under, want, was, well, went, what, white, who, will, with, yes
1st Grade: (41 words) after, again, an, any, as, ask, by, could, every, fly, from, give, giving, had, has, her, him, his, how, just, know, let, live, may, of, old, once, open, over, put, round, some, stop, take, thank, them, then, think, walk, were, when
2nd Grade: (46 words) always, around, because, been, before, best, both, buy, call, cold, does, don’t, fast, first, five, found, gave, goes, green, its, made, many, off, or, pull, read, right, sing, sit, sleep, tell, their, these, those, upon, us, use, very, wash, which, why, wish, work, would, write, your
3rd Grade: (41 words) about, better, bring, carry, clean, cut, done, draw, drink, eight, fall, far, full, got, grow, hold, hot, hurt, if, keep, kind, laugh, light, long, much, myself, never, only, own, pick, seven, shall, show, six, small, start, ten, today, together, try, warm
9. Dolch list: Nouns
(95 words) apple, baby, back, ball, bear, bed, bell, bird, birthday, boat, box, boy, bread, brother, cake, car, cat, chair, chicken, children, Christmas, coat, corn, cow, day, dog, doll, door, duck, egg, eye, farm, farmer, father, feet, fire, fish, floor, flower, game, garden, girl, good-bye, grass, ground, hand, head, hill, home, horse, house, kitty, leg, letter, man, men, milk, money, morning, mother, name, nest, night, paper, party, picture, pig, rabbit, rain, ring, robin, Santa Claus, school, seed, sheep, shoe, sister, snow, song, squirrel, stick, street, sun, table, thing, time, top, toy, tree, watch, water, way, wind, window, wood
10. Dolch Worksheets
I have included some PDF worksheets here for you to try.
These worksheets were designed with a multisensory approach in mind. The child can repeat verbally, color, make sentences, cut out, trace with their finger, point, and more. Modeled after the Orton-Gillingham approach, it involves much more than memorizing a flashcard.
Here is the Dolch Sight Words PDF.Dolch-Sight-Words-worksheet