Teaching Sight Words, Why is it Important and How Can We Assist ?


Besides learning to break the phonetic code and sounding out words knowing sight words is crucial to being a reader. Sight word recognition is one of the important building blocks in a child learning to read. If a child is successful with sight words they will have about 75% of the words that are in children’s literature. The most common sight word list is called the ‘Dolch Word List’.

Dr. Edward Dolch first developed the sight word list that is named after him in 1948. He compiled this list from looking a children’s literature at that time. This list contains 220 words that must be recognized quickly in order to become a fluent reader.

The sight word list is broken down into grade levels or reading levels

Click on the words to see the list of words:

Pre-primer list:     dolchpre

Primer list: dolchpri

First-grade list: dolch1st

Second-grade list: dolch2nd

Third-grade list: dolch3rd

There is also a list of 95 nouns that are separate from this. Below this is a list retrieved from Dolch word list complete with nouns

Dolch Words with Nouns Not all children will be able to learn the words in the same way. They do take practice and repetition. You can teach the words using:

  • Pictures that represent the words
  • Listening and saying the sight words ( point them out as you read, circle them if the child is dictating a story or writing in a journal)
  • Using stories that use the sight words.  ( Reading a-z  Reading a-z has many sight word books and resources  you can locate them by putting  sight words  in the search menu. There are also multiple free sight word books so that a child has many opportunities to read the words in context.)
  • Teach with music: oftimes a student remembers a song when they might not remember other things. There are many of them if you do a search on Youtube.
  • Teach with games: Games are a fun way to get in practice. Some common games that you can use are:
    • Go Fish ( make cards with the sight words)
    • Concentration or memory games with sight word cards
    • Bingo : but instead of numbers you put the words on the Bingo cards there are a number of free Bingo generators such as Bingo generator. In playing Bingo the student also needs to scan all the words as they try to locate the word that you have selected.
    • Word searches with all the words they have learned in the search Word Search generator
    • Magnetic Letters: you can use these on a cookie sheet. Have the child spell out the word that you say. Have the child write you a message or have a message of the day with the words that the child has learned.

Usually, as a speech and language therapist, I am not the first person who is teaching a child their sight words. Often what has occurred is that the child is struggling with reading and part of the struggle is remembering their sight words. For these students, I use a different technique as many of the other strategies may have already been tried. I use ‘Snap Words”. These were developed by Sarah Major and her company is called Child 1st Snap Words There is an opportunity to try these cards out. I have found the company very responsive when I ask a question. I have also had great success with children that were stalled in their learning. The thing that makes the sight word cards different is that there is a picture on the card and also an action or story that goes with the word. I had one little boy that was having a hard time with the word ‘no’ the picture that is on this card is of a figure stamping his foot and saying “No, I said no.”  Now when I display the card I can see him reciting this then telling me that word is ‘no’


I take the pack of cards that correspond with what I have been told the student’s level is. I then go through the words starting with the words I know the student knows to give them some success. I tell them if they don’t know a word just say ‘pass’. I don’t pester the child if I think they know a word that they have said ‘pass’ to, and make it as easy-going as possible.  There are times that a child will say “pass” and then later say ” I know that one and give me the answer” . I put a rubber band around the words they know and another one around the others so I can take data later.

Here is a blog from Sarah Major that invented SnapWords that explain how to teach them. How to teach SnapWords

These are the tracking charts for these SnapWords:TRACKINGCHARTS

How do the different packs of cards relate to grade level or other benchmarks.

 Snapwords here is the chart 

    • List A Lay a Strong Foundation. 59 High-Frequency Words. 
    •  List B 59 Kindergarten Sight Words
    •  List C 59 1st Grade High-Frequency Words 
    •  List D 55 2nd Grade High-Frequency Words 
    •  List E 51 3rd Grade High-Frequency Words 
    •  List F 59 High-Frequency Words. 
    • Lists A-E plus Numbers & Colors and Nouns for all Dolch, Fry’s 300 Instant Sight Words list, and Texas High-Frequency Word Lists for grades 1 and 2.
    •  List G 62 High-Frequency Words 
    • List N 59 Nouns Commonly Used for Beginning Readers 
    •  List N2 59 Concrete Nouns for Beginning Readers. Can be combined with other lists for Sentence-Building 
    •  List V Use these 62 verbs with Sight Words for SentenceBuilding 
  •  Numbers, Colors, Days, Months, and Seasons Contains numbers 1-20, 13 colors words, 12 months, 7 days, 4 

How to teach Snapwords and the organization of the lists.

How do we then write a goal for learning sight words?

By ——–, ______ will increase reading readiness skills in the area of word recognition, from a baseline of _——— to ________- as measured by _______ (running records, probes, anecdotal records, work samples, etc.)

Here is my Pinterest board that has other great ideas and games Sight Word board: Pinterest

What have you found to have helped?



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