phonics lesson

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.

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Published June 17, 2012 at my professional website: