Dolch Words

The Dolch word list is a list of the words most frequently used in English. It was compiled by Edward Dolch in 1936, based on children’s books of his era. The list contains 220 ‘service words’ that have to be easily recognised in order to achieve some level of reading fluency in the English language. It excludes nouns, which comprise a separate 95-word list.

Between 50% and 75% of all words used in schoolbooks, library books, newspapers and magazines are a part of the Dolch basic word vocabulary list. For example, if you take Dr Seuss’ book ‘Green Eggs and Ham’, 87% of the words used are Dolch words.

The Dolch Words are shown in red:

I am Sam. I am Sam. Sam I am. That Sam -I-am! That Sam -I-am! I do not like that Sam -I-am! Do you like green eggs and ham? I do not like them, Sam-I-am . I do not like green eggs and ham. Would you like them here or there? I would not like them here or there. I would not like them anywhere. I do not like green eggs and ham. I do not like them Sam-I-am. Would you like them in a house? Would you like them with a mouse? I do not like them in a house. I do not like them with a mouse. I do not like them here or there. I do not like them anywhere. I do not like green eggs and ham. I do not like them Sam-I-am. Would you eat them in a box? Would you eat them with a fox? Not in a box. Not with a fox. Not in a house. Not with a mouse. I would not eat them here or there. I would not eat them anywhere. I would not eat green eggs and ham. I do not like them, Sam-I-am. Would you? Could you? In a car? Eat them! Eat them! Here they are. I would not, could not, in a car. You may like them. You will see. You may like them in a tree! I would not, could not in a tree. Not in a car! You let me be. I do not like them in a box. I do not like them with a fox. I do not like them in a house. I do not like them with a mouse. I do not like them here or there. I do not like them anywhere. I do not like green eggs and ham. I do not like them, Sam-I-am. A train! A train! A train! A train! Could you, would you on a train? Not on a train! Not in a tree! Not in a car! Sam! Let me be! I would not, could not, in a box. I could not, would not, with a fox. I will not eat them with a mouse. I will not eat them in a house. I will not eat them here or there. I will not eat them anywhere. I do not eat green eggs and ham. I do not like them, Sam-I-am. Say! In the dark? Here in the dark! Would you, could you, in the dark? I would not, could not, in the dark. Would you, could you, in the rain? I would not, could not, in the rain. Not in the dark. Not on a train. Not in a car. Not in a tree. I do not like them, Sam, you see. Not in a house. Not in a box. Not with a mouse. Not with a fox. I will not eat them here or there. I do not like them anywhere! You do not like green eggs and ham? I do not like them, Sam-I-am. Could you, would you, with a goat? I would not, could not with a goat! Would you, could you, on a boat? I could not, would not, on a boat. I will not, will not, with a goat. I will not eat them in the rain. I will not eat them on a train. Not in the dark! Not in a tree! Not in a car! You let me be! I do not like them in a box. I do not like them with a fox. I do not like them in a house. I do not like them with a mouse. I do not like them here or there. I do not like them ANYWHERE! I do not like green eggs and ham! I do not like them, Sam-I-am. You do not like them. So you say. Try them! Try them! And you may. Try them and you may, I say. Sam! If you will let me be, I will try them. You will see. Say! I like green eggs and ham! I do! I like them, Sam-I-am! And I would eat them in a boat. And I would eat them with a goat … And I will eat them in the rain. And in the dark. And on a train. And in a car. And in a tree. They are so good, so good, you see! So I will eat them in a box. And I will eat them with a fox. And I will eat them in a house. And I will eat them with a mouse. And I will eat them here and there. Say! I will eat them ANYWHERE! I do so like green eggs and ham! Thank you! Thank you, Sam-I-am!

These high frequency words are, unfortunately, commonly referred to as ‘sight’ words, implying that they can’t be decoded or encoded and therefore need to be remembered based on their visual appearance. Yet, 53 words can be decoded simply by knowing the basic sound of the alphabet /a/, /b/, /c/ (e.g., not).  Another 79 words can be decoded by knowing 19 of the very commonly used graphemes (e.g., a-e, ow, sh, ch, etc.) and if you add in silent letters and vowels pronounced as the long vowel sound (e.g., me), then this rises to 109 words. This leaves 58 words which use less commonly used graphemes, such as ‘a’ representing /o/ like in want and was, but they can still be ‘sounded out’ and each sound can be represented by a letter or a combination of letters. For example, think of the word ‘said’.  The sounds in ‘said’ are /s/-/e/-/d/. The /e/ sound is represented by the unusual combination of ‘ai’, but it is still decodable.

Yes, it is important that students are able to quickly and accurately recognise high frequency words such as those in the Dolch list. However, they equally need to know that all the letters and letter combinations contained in these word relate to the pronunciation of the word.

For more information about learning to read and decodable readers go to: http://crackingtheabccode.com/home/learn-to-read-series/

 

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