Tips for Learning New Vocabulary Words

What are Dolch Words and How do They Help Students?


Dolch words are a list of 220 words that students should be able to recognize by sight.  This list promotes reading fluency and excludes nouns, which make up a separate 95-word list. Additionally, the words on the Dolch list cannot be sounded out phonetically.  It is divided into grades, but many schools feel that the list should be memorized by the end of first grade.  Interestingly, ‘The Cat in the Hat’ by Dr. Seuss was written using 400 words provided by the publisher and most of these were taken directly from words on the 220 Dolch list.

How to Use the Dolch List
Students can learn the Dolch word list through reinforcement in conjunction with a reading program. The Dolch sight words are words that are frequently used within print.  As a result, most students already use these words in their everyday vocabulary. By studying Dolch words, students learn to connect printed words with sounds that are familiar. Additionally, the lists are broken down for different grade levels through grade five, but are generally used for kindergarten and first grade students.

Assessing Students Using the Dolch List
Often the Dolch words are referred to as “No Excuse Words” and students are expected to know them without error by the end of the program.  As a result, students are generally given a set to practice with each week and then tested.  Upon successful completion of the test, they move on to the next list.  In addition, the words are listed in alphabetical order.  When giving assessments, it can be useful to begin at the start of the year with a baseline test to give teachers an idea of the grasp of the student’s knowledge.  Additionally, supplement spelling lists with words that have already been used.

Making the Dolch List Fun
There are many ways to make Dolch lists fun for students.  Teachers can use 3 x 5 flashcards to review sight words.  An alternative is to use a pocket chart. Take three or four flashcards and use them to create sentences or fill in the blanks in a sentence.  In addition, Students can use cards to play matching games or Pictionary.  Have students pick a card and draw the meaning of the word while other students guess the word.  By making the Dolch list fun, students will have an easier time learning and remembering the words.
The words included in the Dolch list are recognizable for most young students and help them to form sentences using simple words.  This allows them to contextualize reading material.  The words included in the Dolch list do not follow typical grammar rules and cannot be pronounced phonetically.  However, by learning these words, students will accelerate their reading abilities. Learning the Dolch words does not need to be a difficult chore. Games that include the words can be incorporated to make reading fun, not frustrating.