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Dolch Sight Words

Edward William Dolch, Ph.D. published a book called Problems in Reading which devoted an entire chapter on sight words. Dolch identified a need for a sight word list as opposed to a standard word list which typically contains over five hundred words. He concluded that the most essential words will be repeated on the “best” lists of words used by children.

Dolch Sight Word Lists

He obtained the following three lists:

  • A list published by a committee in an international kindergarten union that contains the words children recognize prior to entering first grade (Washington, International Kindergarten Union, 1928).
  • A list published in A Reading Vocabulary for the Primary Grades by Arthur I. Gates. Dolch used Gates’ first 500 hundred words (New York: Teachers College, Columbia University, 1926).
  • A list compiled by H.E. Wheeler and Emma A. Howell in the article A First-Grade Vocabulary Study which contained 453 words most frequently found in reading material in first grade(Elementary School Journal, XXXI, September, 1930).

After comparing the three lists, he excluded nouns and selected the most common words based on frequency. In addition, he exercised professional judgment and included 27 words which were on only two of the three lists. The end result was a list of 220 words commonly referred to as sight words. He presented them according to level of difficulty, alphabetical and function or parts of speech.

Dolch Sight Words

After careful analysis, he selected 220 sight words which were categorize according to parts of speech. They are as follows:

  • 6 conjunctions – used to join clauses,
  • 16 prepositions – used to introduce phrases,
  • 26 pronouns – used to represent person or things,
  • 34 adverbs – used to modify verbs,
  • 46 adjectives – used to modify nouns, and
  • 92 verbs – used to denote action.

Dolch referred to the above words as “tool” or “service” words because they are used in all writing regardless of subject matter. Dolch’s sight words represent approximately half of printed material and he encouraged every child to learn to recognize these words instantly. Many of the Dolch list words cannot be sounded out phonetically, nor can they be illustrated to add a visual cue to the learning process.

Dolch intentionally excluded nouns from his sight words list and provided a separate list of 95 nouns. This noun list should NOT be treated like his sight word list unless a child was struggling with reading. Both parents and professional educators are encouraged to find creative ways to help children instantly recognize sight words.

Erudition™, the sight words game, is an excellent tool to help parents and teachers instill the Dolch list (and a few other sight words) in early readers. Game cards are separated by difficulty level so children of various reading levels can play together.

Source: Dolch, E.W., Ph.D. (1948). Problems in Reading. Champain, IL: The Garrard Press.

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