Are Dolch Word Lists Necessary?

Dolch word lists were developed by Edward Dolch, PhD. in 1936. He picked out commonly used words in the children’s books of his time. It was his thought that if children memorized these words, also called sight words, it would help them learn to read faster and better. It is estimated that about 50% - 75% of words in children’s books are found in this list.

There are 220 words on the main Dolch word lists plus an additional 95 common nouns. While the main Dolch word list is divided into different grade levels up to grade three, it is usually recommended that all these sight words be memorized by the end of grade one. Some children are good at memorization and accomplish this quickly. Many other young students struggle at what seems like an overwhelming task.

“The Dolch words are also commonly known as "sight words" because very often they cannot be either illustrated via simple pictures or sounded out according to regular phonetic decoding rules. They need to be learned and recognized 'on sight'. “ English Raven Educational Services

Teachers often send these Dolch word lists home for parents to help their children memorize. Many times parents are often assured that the majority of these words are not phonetic. In fact, some teachers get upset if a student tries to sound out these words! Yet, if you look at the words marked in red below, you will see that very few of these words are truly irregular words. Students of Academic Associates will be able to sound out all the other words! That is not to say that they will “get” them on the first try. “A”, for example, has nine sounds so a student may have to try several sounds before they discover the right one. [Keep in mind that only 10 letters in the alphabet normally make more than one sound.] Once they have made that discovery for themselves they are unlikely to ever forget that word again. Plus, such a discovery increases their confidence in their word attack skills. They will be more willing to try longer and harder words they come across.

It may appear that sounding out words takes longer than simply memorizing the Dolch word lists. For those quick with memorization this is true...at the beginning. A large and growing language means that those who rely on memorization will be limiting their potential reading ability in the future. Taking the time to establish good phonetic reading habits in the beginning will pay off by being able to read quickly with confidence later. Like many things in life, time invested in the beginning will pay off richly later on.

Academic Associates in 15 lessons [about 30 - 60 hours of teaching] and 44 phonetic rules equips students from 6 to 100 years of age to sound out not only the majority of words in the Dolch word lists, but also the majority of words in the English language. Isn’t that a lot easier than memorizing 220+ words and then every word that is encountered in the future? Why not simply equip yourself and your child with the phonetic rules?

True sight words are marked in red. All the others are either entirely phonetic or can be sounded out knowing the phonetic rules and the different sounds letters and letter combinations can make.

Dolch Word Lists Non-Nouns

Pre-primer:

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:

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:

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:

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:

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

Dolch Word Lists Nouns

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

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Sources:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dolch_word_list
http://www.englishraven.com/ttools_dolch.html

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