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Dolch Sight Words: Primer

In the late 1940s, Edward William Dolch, Ph.D. published a list 220 high frequency words that must be learned, so they can be recognized instantly. Dolch realized the limitations of a standard word list containing over 500 words – too many words to memorize or recognize upon sight. As a result, he conducted research to ascertain which words are most common in children’s readings.

Dolch Sight Words

Even though Dolch narrowed the list down to 220 sight words, it is still quite overwhelming to choose which words to introduce first. Dolch addressed this issue by further categorizing his word list into five groups:

  • Pre-primer
  • Primer
  • First
  • Second
  • Third

Many current reading curriculums recommend obtaining a sight word vocabulary by the end of first grade. For example, our first grade curriculum (Montgomery County Public Schools, MD) recommends that a child read and write high frequency and sight words correctly by the end of the school year. This objective does not undermine Dolch’s research but rather provides a strategy as to which words to introduce and when. Begin with the pre-primer list and proceed down his list until your child can automatically recognize all the sight words. Remember to review previously taught words.

Dolch Sight Words – Primer

Dolch’s primer word list includes 52 high frequency words. These words are ideal to introduce after your child can automatically recognize the pre-primer list. The pre-primer list contains many words that are frequently used in kindergarten through second grade as well as some of the most common English words. The primer word list also contains high frequency words, some more prevalent than others. Dolch’s included the following sight words on his primer word list.

all do no say want
am* eat* now she was*
are* four on* so well
at* get* our soon went
ate good out* that* what
be have* please there white
black he* pretty they* who
brown into ran this* will
but like* ride too with*
came must saw under yes
did new

* Included on Fry’s Primary Students’ Most Used Words and/ or Instant Words List (Top 25)

Dolch’s sight words assist both parents and teachers on the selection of sight words. Clearly, introducing all 220 would be overwhelming. Categorizing his word list by level is extremely beneficial.

Source: Fry, E.B., Ph.D. & Kress, J.E., Ed.D. (2006). The Reading Teacher’s Book of Lists 5th Edition. Sanfransico, CA: Jossey Bass.

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