The Dolch Sight Word List contains 220 of the most commonly used words, such as and and they.
Many people ask if All About Reading and All About Spelling teach the Dolch words, and the short answer is yes.
The longer answer is that we teach all 220 of these words, but not in the way that Mr. Dolch intended way back in the 1930s when he created the list. Mr. Dolch intended kids to memorize the words as a whole, whereas our program teaches kids to read the words phonetically, which is a far superior method for teaching these words.
Unfortunately, most teachers have been led to believe that the words on the Dolch Sight Word List cannot be sounded out and must be taught as whole words, but that is not true. The truth is that 90% of the words on the Dolch list are completely phonetic and can be sounded out if the child knows basic phonics. They don’t need to be taught as whole words as is commonly done.
In this video, the Dolch words are sorted according to their phonetic structure.
If you made it through the video, congratulations! You now know more about the Dolch Sight Word List than most teachers.
If you didn’t watch the video, here are the results of our analysis:
There are only 21 words that need to be memorized as sight words, which equals 10% of the Dolch list:
And in most of these sight words, the majority of the word is decodable—there are just one or two letters that don’t say the sounds we would expect them to say. The spellings of these words aren’t completely random.
Now that we’ve established that 90% of the Dolch Word List is phonetic, we have a simple way to teach the words on this list.
From a developmental perspective, it’s crazy to teach the word please on the kindergarten list and the word if on the third grade list. It’s important to teach just one new concept at a time and have each lesson build on the previous lesson.
Through phonics, your student can sound out most of the words. As shown in the video, 90% of the words on the Dolch Sight Word List are completely decodable! And since these words represent the most commonly-used words in the English language, your student will get lots of practice with them.
With your student, talk about the part of the word that “breaks the rules,” and then drill these words on flashcards and in reading material. Teach just one, two, or three sight words at a time, and only after your student has developed strong decoding skills through phonics. One of the goals of beginning reading is for the child to internalize the idea that phonics is reliable. After they understand that, introduce these Rule Breakers and practice them until they become automatic.