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Sight Words

Words are formed using different combinations of shapes and squiggles. An “O” is a circle. A “T” is a line going down with a hat on the top. Children begin to recognize these squiggles and their meaning between the ages of 3 and 8 years old, as they get ready to learn how to read. Some individuals find reading hard all throughout their lives because it can be difficult to connect the different squiggles and shapes with sounds.

Having children notice the squiggles and lines can be fun! A great first step is to point out how certain letters go together to make a word, without sounding the letters out. Some words appear more often than others in books and learning to recognize these common words by sight is a building block of learning to read. These common words are often called “sight words” because children can “see” the word without having to sound it out.
 
Learning to read involves "sounding out" new words as well as recognizing familiar sight words from memory. Exposure to sight words helps reduce the number of words to sound out while reading, helping children read more fluently and focus on understanding what they are reading. Below is one of common sight word lists that schools use when children start to read English as a primary or additional language.

Dolch Sight Words

Beginner
Beginner - Intermediate
Intermediate

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

a

and

away

big

blue

can

come

down

find

for

funny

go

help

here

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

after

again

an

any

as

ask

by

could

every

fly

from

give

going

had

has

her

him

his

hers

how

just

know

let

live

may

of

old

once

put

round

some

stop

take

thank

them

then

thin

walk

were

when

Intermediate  - Advanced
Advanced

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

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

Bliss, S. L., Skinner, C. H., & Adams, R. (2006). Enhancing an English Language Learning Fifth-

Grade Student’s Sight-Word Reading with a Time-Delay Taped-Words Intervention. School Psychology Review, 35(4), 663–670.

(This study describes a method for using the Dolch words with a student who is learning English as an additional language.)

Ehri, L. C. (2020). The science of learning to read words: A case for systematic phonics instruction. Reading Research Quarterly, 55(60). https://doi.org/10.1002/rrq.334

("Building a store of sight words that can be read as single units from memory automatically . . . allows readers to focus their attention on the meaning of the text while words are recognized automatically out of awareness" (pp. 55-56).)

Lowe, A. J., & Follman, J. (1974). Comparison of the Dolch List with other word lists. Reading Teacher, 28(1), 40–44.

(This classic study from Reading Teacher shows the history of the Dolch sight word list in comparison to other lists, and how it does not really matter what list is used to start children on their reading journey.)

 

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