What is the Dolch List?


If you have heard of sight words or common words, you have likely come across the Dolch list.

Here’s what you need to know about the Dolch list and how you can help your young learner memorize these words.

You can find sight word activities in our Phonics store, or see our Product Listing page.


Why is the Dolch list important?

The Dolch list remains the most popular set of high-frequency sight words in English. The list was compiled by Dr. Edward William Dolch in the 1930s based on analysis of existing children’s books, and is still used today by educators.

What is a sight word?

A sight word is a word that occurs many times in English, such as theand or you. These words are also known as common words, or high-frequency words as they typically appear many times in different texts.

How many words are featured in the Dolch list?

In total, there are 220 Dolch sight words to learn, with an additional 95 nouns. Dolch claimed that once a student had mastered these words, they could read up to 75%* of the words that commonly appeared in books for children at that time.

The Dolch list is divided into year groups so that students will learn specific words in the early years of their education (see below).

Should my learner try to blend sight words?

Although most of the Dolch words are phonetic (on, in, can), many are not. Sight words such as the, said, she and could might confuse young learners because they do not follow the same phonics rules and are likely to be mispronounced by blending. 

Therefore, we have separated the sight words from the rest of the vocabulary in the Phonics Program. 

Similarly, our Reading program introduces four new sight words per book. These are distinct from the other words that feature a specific phoneme.

How many sight words will my student learn in this Phonics Program?

There are 30 words to learn in each of the five phases, meaning there are 150 different sight words covered by this Phonics Program

We have further sorted the Dolch words by frequency relevant to today’s texts, meaning that your learner will study the most common words first. 

By encountering the most popular words early on, they will recognize significant words in English and build their confidence as they progress.

Click on the images to zoom in and read:

How can my learner practice these sight words?

The student is encouraged to see, hear and say the word using our interactive flashcards.

We have also included lots of engaging activities to help them recognize the sight words, such as board games, printable activities and interactive resources with audio elements! 

In the sight word packs, there are lots of worksheets and game ideas that will not only test the student’s memory of these sight words, but improve their pronunciation and handwriting skills too. 

What are the Dolch sight words?

The full list of Dolch words are listed below by grade or school year. We have included the US and UK school years for reference:

Pre-kindergarten / Reception: 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, (40 words)

Kindergarten / Year 1: 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, (52 words) 

1st Grade / Year 2: 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, (41 words) 

2nd Grade / Year 3: 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, (46 words) 

3rd Grade / Year 4: 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, (41 words)

What are the Dolch sight words that are nouns?

These words do not appear in our Phonics Program as sight words, but many of these words are included as vocabulary words for different sounds. For example, the /b/ sound pack includes many of these words that start with ‘b’. 

Our Reading Program further expands on the vocabulary presented to the student, so they will learn many of these words through reading the stories and completing the additional activities in each book bundle.

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 (95 words)

How is the Dolch list different to the Fry list?

Some teachers prefer to use the more modern Fry Instant Word list that was devised in the 1970s by Dr. Edward Fry.

The Fry list consists of the first 1,000 words that are broken down into sections of 100 words by frequency, with the first 100 words being the most commonly used in various English texts for beginners.

While there are some noticeable differences, particularly the volume of words featured, there are many overlaps between the Dolch and Fry lists in the earlier stages.

Does my learner have to memorize these sight words?

This is one way of learning them, but your student may prefer to try to blend them using their phonetic knowledge. As previously mentioned, this works well with words that can be sounded out, such as will, not, am and run. 

However, it is important that they understand not all sight words can be decoded in this way, and memorizing words such as would, do, all and over may be a quicker way to learn them. 

Your student should be encouraged to approach learning new skills in the best way for them, whether that is by memory or a different method. As long as they are exposed to the sight words and encouraged to practice them in a variety of ways, they will eventually recognize them!

Did you find this blog useful? Visit our Phonics store to find sight word activities.

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Dolch, E. W. “A Basic Sight Vocabulary.” The Elementary School Journal, vol. 36, no. 6, 1936

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