dolch words

The Story Behind Sight Words – Why are They So Important?


Here are the questions and answers that you have been dying to know, but have been either afraid to ask or too busy to research (or you once knew and just plain forgot). As a parent or teacher of young children, you should become well versed in the story behind sight words and dolch words. Don’t worry….this will be easy reading and quick!

1. Why do children need to learn SIGHT WORDS? It is suggested that children should begin learning sight words prior to first grade and should be able to read most of the Dolch words by the end of third grade. These are typical expectations in many schools, to ensure fluency in reading.

2. Should sight words be “sounded-out”? No. They should be quickly recognized and read in under 3 seconds. Most of these words cannot be sounded out.

3. What are dolch words and are they the same as SIGHT WORDS? Technically, yes. Dolch words, are the 220 most frequently used words in children’s books. 50-75% of words in children’s books are dolch words.

4. Are sight words or dolch words research-based? Yes. Edward W. Dolch, PhD, developed the Dolch Word lists based on research documented in his book “Problems in Reading,” published in 1948. There are 5 lists: Pre-Primer, Primer, First, Second and Third. The list for “Second” does not actually mean that those dolch words should be exclusively taught only in Second grade. It simply means that in Second grade texts (in the 1930’s/1940’s books), those words were documented more in Second grade texts.

5. Why do some curriculum’s or State Standards/Textbooks focus on certain sight words more than others. [(example 1: Kindergarten students in Alabama are expected to learn less sight words than those in Texas).(example 2: I am going on a whim here assuming that Houghton Mifflin vs. Pearson do not present the exact same set of sight words)]….I don’t know the answer to this, but this is a great question to ask your Reading Specialist or Curriculum Specialist! I presume that the arrangement of the timeline of when sight words are presented is based on the textbook, book or Emergent book order.

In the Green Bean Kindergarten Curriculum, I have arranged the Sight Words, based on the Dolch Words, combined with how the Emergent Readers are presented as well as the letters, Word Families and Rhyming Words. It is arranged smoothly for ease of learning.

FREE SIGHT word list below:

Click here for the Green Bean Kindergarten Curriculum SIGHT WORD list: Kindergarten Sight Word List for the Year GBK

Download the Dolch Word List here: dolch_alphabetized_by_grade_with_nouns


“Why Dolch Sight Words are Important”

“What are Dolch Words?”

What is the Best Way for Teaching Reading?

Arthur Read

Arthur Read (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

     Dolch words vs. Sight Words. Which method proves to be the best way for teaching reading? Are they even the same thing or are they different? As a Kindergarten teacher, who has taught sight words, I was curious about the answer to this question. Other Kindergarten teachers across the world teach dolch words. So, are we both up to part with the teaching of reading? Is one method better than the other?

     According to Edward William Dolch, there are 220 most commonly used words in the English language. This list was first published in 1948 in his book “Problems in Reading.” Dolch called these words “service words” meaning-words that must be quickly recognized to be able to read successfully. Words that must be recognized and read quickly are also called “sight words.” Many of the Dolch words are sight words (the answer to my original question)! In fact, any general text contains about 50-70 % of the 220 dolch words which are sight words. Therefore, sight words are vital to reading successfully.

     The other 30-50% of the words in most general text is phonics-based. Phonics based reading (the sounding out of words) is also vital to reading successfully. One could read with only sight words, or read by only sounding out words. However, if that were done, the person could not read successfully-or would be reading on a K-1st grade level. In order to read by phonics, a child must have phonemic awareness-the realization that letters make sounds. Then, the child must be able to know the name of each capital and lowercase letter, and the sounds that each makes. When letters are recognized within a word, such as “man,” the child should be able to think about the name of the letter and the sound it makes, and then sound out each sound slowly. By “reading” and practicing “sounding out” simple 2-3 letter words, a child will eventually sound out the letters more quickly and read more successfully. Therefore, phonics-based reading, sight word and dolch word reading are vital toward being a proficient reader.

The list of Dolch words can be found all over the internet via Google searches. The easiest to print list (found below) can also be found on Wikipedia. Below is the list, from Wikipedia, in alphabetical order. They are separated into categories by grade level and by noun/non-noun.

Dolch list: 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


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 list: 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

References: Dolch, W. E. (1948). Problems in Reading. USA: Garrard Press.

Internet Source:

Published June 17, 2012 at my professional website: