Archive | January, 2013

To Dolch, Or Not, To Dolch

7 Jan

The Dolch Sight Words were put together in the 1930’s.  In our fast-changing world, that seems like a very long time ago.  In Education, we have an awful lot that has changed drastically from that time period.  Yet, these lists of common words are still around.  Granted, there have been a few changes but the lists remain.  The words are divided into grade levels.  The lists start at Pre Primer and move up to Grade Three.  These lists are used to provide students with a “sight word bank”.  They are words that are often used in English literature.  Some of them are exceptions to phonetic rules.  That doesn’t lead to “sounding out”.  Therefore, the word must be memorized.

We are always questioning the effectiveness of certain teaching strategies.  Dolch words came under our lens just recently.  We have seen students struggle to read simple passages.  Even when the “key vocabulary” has been pre-viewed, the student still struggles.  It is difficult to watch the struggle.  It is even more difficult when words such as “the” and “to” are the words that are causing the most difficulty.  By the time a student tries all of their “sounding out” skills and still can’t come up with the word, they have lost most of the sentence, attention, and interest.  It is impossible to have full comprehension of a passage when you struggle with many of the words.

We have seen that when a student learns these words, their comprehension with written passages increases.  Since these “little” words aren’t the key vocabulary in the story, how does it help the student with their comprehension?  It could be that they are reading the passage more quickly so their ability to remember is not impeded.  There is the possibility that less frustration aids in their ability to understand.  It could be that the reader’s confidence is higher when they are able to read the majority of the words.  There could even be a third variable at play.

Based on our personal past experiences…and with no scientific data to support our continued use of Dolch lists…we will continue to use the idea until we don’t see positive results.

Therefore, we have taken the words…and borrowed some ideas from everywhere…and developed some fun games to help to teach Dolch words.

Check them out on our Downloads page or on our Teacher’s Notebook shop page at