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What are Dolch Words?

By J. Beam
Updated May 23, 2024
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Dolch words are an organized list of the most commonly seen words in children’s books. The list was originally compiled by Edward William Dolch, Ph.D. as part of his philosophy that children who focused on and learned these words would become stronger readers. Dolch words are also commonly referred to as “sight words” because many of the words are not phonetic and most words cannot be illustrated, therefore children must learn them by sight.

Dolch words are broken down by grade level and the list contains 220 service words and 95 common nouns. Words such as a, and, for, and it appear amongst the 40 pre-primer words and the list builds up to words such as done, laugh, and together at the third grade level. Nouns such as dog, duck, party, and picture are part of the separate 95 nouns word list.

Though Dolch words are broken down into grade levels through grade 3, most educators prefer that children learn as many of the 315 total words as possible by the end of first grade including all of the 220 service words. Teachers will often provide students with a list of Dolch words to practice at home in addition to reviewing them in the classroom. Spelling word lists in many curricula will contain words from the lists of Dolch words.

A list of Dolch words can be obtained through your child’s teacher or via many educational websites online. To help your child learn the Dolch words, you can try simple exercises such as making flash cards or highlighting the words in early reader books and have your child practice identifying the words. Once children learn to write, select Dolch words in groups of ten and have your child write them in alphabetical order.

Though there are many ways to help your child become familiar with Dolch words, reading is the best way to help them advance. In children’s books, Dolch words appear frequently and are in context, which will help your child both identify the words and their meanings. Educational experts recommend reading to or with your child for at least 15 minutes every day. This small time commitment early in their educational career will yield a large pay off later in life as they become strong, fluent readers.

Language & Humanities is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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