Sight Words, why they are important, and how they can help
24 February 2019
Michael Cole


No one ever said learning English was easy.

In fact, it is quite the opposite.

English is a language that has changed and evolved with every new language that is has encountered. 

That means that there are rules to the English language that contradict each other.  To the adult learning English, it is confusing enough.

To the younger learner, it is torture.

Over the years, many have tried to teach tips and tricks to overcome these hurdles.

I for one remember the old, "i before e, except after c," and a host of others that unfortunately had exception after exception.

The plain simple fact of it all is that there are no easy rules out there to help with mastery of basic rules and pronunciations of the English language.

Believe it or not, 50% of all reading texts are made up of the same 100 words! The most frequently used and repeated words in the English language are known as sight words. This list of words includes the, a, is, of, to, in, and, I, you, and that. 

And there are scientific approaches to learning the language

Sight words are words, like comedoes, or who, that don’t follow the rules of spelling or the six syllable types. These words have to be memorized because decoding them is really difficult. Students are taught to memorize sight words as a whole, by sight, so that they can recognize them immediately (within three seconds) and read them without having to use decoding skills.

Put simply, sight words are words that we teach our young readers to know by heart. That way, they don’t have to spend valuable time decoding them.  

Oftentimes the terms sight words and high-frequency words are used interchangeably. Although many high-frequency words are also sight words, there is a difference.

Sight words are words that do not fit standard phonetic patterns and must be memorized. High-frequency words are words that are most commonly found in written language. Although some fit standard phonetic patterns, some do not.

When a reader masters sight words her memory automatically brings the sound and meaning of the word into the person’s consciousness. The action is so unconscious that they don’t even realize it is happening. In fact, researchers found that when they presented readers with illustrations of some sight words along with the written words, the readers could not avoid looking at the words. They used the written words rather than the illustrations to determine the meaning because their brains were “trained” to read these words.

Two of the most popular sources are the Dolch Sight Words list and the Fry Sight Words list.

During the 1930s and 1940s, Dr. Edward Dolch developed his word list, used for preK through third grade, by studying the most frequently occurring words in the children’s books of that era. The list has 200 “service words” and also 95 high-frequency nouns. The Dolch word list comprises 80 percent of the words you would find in a typical children’s book and 50 percent of the words found in writing for adults.

Dr. Edward Fry developed an expanded word list for grades 1–10 in the 1950s (updated in 1980), based on the most common words that appear in reading materials used in grades 3–9. The Fry Sight Words list contains the most common 1,000 words in the English language. The Fry words include 90 percent of the words found in a typical book, newspaper, or website.  

Dolch Sight Words Fry Sight Words Top 150 Sight Words Strategies Flash Cards

Do not fret too much if your child takes a while to master thse words. This is a foundation that a child can build a lifetime of learning on.

Children will learn at different paces, and master some words with ease and stumble over others.

Teach for mastery, not speed. And above all, have fun.


Dolch, Fry, Sight Words Dolch Sight Words


Dolch Sight Words

The Dolch Sight Words list is the most commonly used set of sight words. Educator Dr. Edward William Dolch developed the list in the 1930s-40s by studying the most frequently occurring words in children’s books of that era. The list contains 220 “service words” plus 95 high-frequency nouns. These words comprise 80% of the words you would find in a typical children’s book and 50% of the words found in writing for adults. Once a child knows this list of words, it makes reading much easier, because the child can then focus his or her attention on the remaining words.

The Dolch words are commonly divided into groups by grade level, ranging from pre-kindergarten to third grade, with a separate list of nouns. There are a total of 315 Dolch Sight Words.

Bellow is the Dolch Sight Words broken up by grade with a printable PDF included for each level

Pre-K Dolch Sight Words

A And Away Big Blue
Can Come Down Find For
Funny Go Help Here I
in it is jump little
look make me my not
one play red run said
see the three to two
up we where yellow you

Kindergarten Dolch Sight Words

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 while who will
with yes      

First Grade Dolch Sight Words

after again an any as
ask by could every fly
from give going had has
her him his how just
know let live may of
old once open over put
round some stop take thank
think walk were when  

Second Grade Dolch Sight Words

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 would work write

Third Grade Dolch Sight Words

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

Noun Sight Dolch Words

apple baby back bear bed
bell bird birthday boat box
boy bread brother cake car
car cat chair chicken children
Christmas coat corn cow day
dog door duck egg eye
farm farmer father feet fire
fish floor flower game garden
girl goodbye 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  



Dolch, Fry, Sight Words Fry Sight Words

Fry Sight Words

The Fry Sight Words list is a more modern list of words than the Dolch list, and was extended to capture the most common 1,000 words. Dr. Edward Fry developed this expanded list in the 1950s (and updated it in 1980), based on the most common words to appear in reading materials used in Grades 3-9. Learning all 1,000 words in the Fry list would equip a child to read about 90% of the words in a typical book, newspaper, or website.

The Fry words are listed by the frequency with which they occur and are often broken down into groups of 100. So the first 100 Fry words are the 100 most frequently occurring words in the English language.

1st 100 Fry Sight Words

a about all an and
are as at be been
but by called can come
could day did do down
each find first for from
get go had has have
he her him his how
I if in into is
 it like long look made
make many may more my
no not now number of
oil on one or other
out part people said she
see sit so some than
that the their then then
there these they this time
to two up use was
water way we were what
when which who will with
words would write you your


2nd 100 Fry Sight Words

after again air also America
animal another answer any around
ask away back because before
big boy boy came change
different does end even follow
form found give good great
hand help here home house
just kind know land large
learn letter line little live
man me means men most
mother move much name need
new off old only our
over page picture place play
point put read right same
say sentence set should show
small sound spell still study
such take tell things think
three through too try turn
us very want well went
where why work world years

3rd 100 Fry Sight Words

above add almost along always
began begin below between book
both car carry children city
close country cut don't earth
eat enough every example eyes
face family far father feet
few food four girl got
group grow hard head hear
high idea important Indian it's
keep last late leave left
let life light list might
mile miss mountains near never
next night often once open
own paper plant real river
run saw school sea second
seem side something sometimes song
soon start state stop story
talk those thought together took
tree under until walk watch
while white without young being

4th 100 Fry Sight Words

across against area become best
better birds black body certain
cold color complete covered cried
didn't dog door draw during
early easy ever fall farm
fast filed figure fire fish
five friends ground happened heard
himself hold horse hours however
hundred I'll king knew listen
low map mark measure money
morning music north notice numeral
order passed pattern piece plan
problem products pulled questions reached
red remember rock room seen
several ship short since sing
slowly south space stand step
sun sure table today told
top toward town travel true
unit upon usually voice vowel
war waves whole wind wood

5th 100 Fry Sight Words

able ago am among ball
base became behind boat box
bring brought building built cannot
carefully check circle class clear
common contain correct course dark
decided deep done dry English
equation explain fact feel fill
fly force front full game
gave government green half heal
heavy hot inches include inside
island known language less machine
material minutes note nothing noun
object ocean oh pair person
plane power produce quickly ran
rest road round rule scientists
shape shown six size special
stars stay stood street strong
street strong surface system ten
thought thousands understand verb wait
warm week wheels yes yet

6th 100 Fry Sight Words

anything arms beautiful believe beside
bill blue brother can't cause
cells center clothes dance describe
developed difference direction discovered distance
divided drive drop edge eggs
energy Europe exercise farmers felt
finished flowers forest general gone
grass happy heart held instruments
 interest job kept lay legs
length love main matter meet
members million mind months moon
paint paragraph past perhaps picked
present probably race rain raised
ready reason record region represent
return root sat shall sign
simple site sky soft square
store subject suddenly sum syllables
teacher test third train wall
weather west whether wide wild
window winter wish written return

7th 100 Fry Sight Words

act Africa already although amount
angle appear baby bear beat
bed bottom bright broken build
buy care case cat century
consonant copy couldn't count cross
dictionary died dress either everyone
everything exactly factors fight fingers
floor fraction free French gold
hair hill hole hope ice
instead iron jumped killed lake
laughed lead let's lot melody
metal method middle milk moment
nation natural outside per phrase
poor possible pounds pushed quiet
remain result ride rolled sail
scale section sleep smiled snow
soil solve someone son speak
speed spring stone surprise tall
temperature tiny type village wonder

8th 100 Fry Sight Words

alone art bad bit break
brown burning business captain catch
caught cents child choose clean
climbed cloud coast continued control
cool cost decimal desert design
direct drawing ears east else
engine England equal experiment express
feeling fell flow foot garden
gas glass God grew history
human increase information  itself joined
key lady law least lost
maybe mouth party pay period
plains please practice president received
report ring rise rise row
save seeds sent separate serve
shouted single skin statement stick
straight strange students suppose symbols
team touch trouble uncle valley
visit wear whose wire woman
wrote yard you're yourself hunting

9th 100 Fry Sight Words

 addition army bell belong block
blood blow board bones branches
cattle chief compare compound consider
cook corner crops crowd current
doctor dollars eight elements enjoy
entered except exciting expect famous
fit flat fruit fun guess
hat hit indicate industry insects
interesting Japanese lie lifted loud
 major mall meat mine modern
movement necessary observe park particular
planets poem pole position process
property provide rather rhythm rich
safe sand science sell send
sense seven sharp shoulder sight
silent soldiers spot spread stream
string suggested supply swim terms
thick thin thus   tied tone
trade tube value wash wasn't
weight wife wings won't electric

10th 100 Fry Sight Words

action actually adjective afraid agreed
ahead allow apple arrived born
bought British capital chance chart
church column company conditions corn
cotton cows create dead deal
death details determine difficult division
doesn't effect entire especially evening
experience factories fair fear fig
forward France fresh Greek gun
hoe huge isn't led level
located march match molecules northern
nose office opposite oxygen plural
prepared pretty printed radio repeated
rope rose score seal settled
shoes shop similar sir sister
smell solution southern steel stretched
substances suffix sugar tools total
track triangle truck underline various
view Washington we'll western win
women workers wouldn't wrong yellow



150 Top Words

Top 150 Written Sight Words

The Top 150 Written Words is the newest of the word lists, commonly used by native speakers of other languages who are learning to read English. They are the 150 words that occur most frequently in printed English, according to the Word Frequency Book.

This list is recommended by Sally E. Shaywitz, M.D., Professor of Learning Development at Yale University.

The words are listed in order of their frequency. For your convenience, they are divided into three groups of 50 words each.

First 50 Words

the of and a to
in is you that it
he for was on are
not but what all were
when we there can an
your which their said if
do into has more her
two like him time see
could no make than first
been its water long as

Second 50 Words

little very words called just
where most know get through
back much before think also
around another came come work
three word must because does
part even place well with
his they at be this
from I or by one
had will each about how
up out them have after


Third 50 Words

then she many some so
these would who now people
my made over did down
only way use may other
go good new write our
used me man too any
day same right look such
here take why things help
put years different away again
off went old number find



Teaching Strategies for Sight Words

Teaching Strategies

Now that you have the words, there is probably one question on your mind.

What do I do with these?

How do I teach them?

There are probably as many different teaching strategies out there as there are people. There will be strategies that you use that work for you, but I will share with you some of the strategies that have worked for me in the past.

One of the biggest problems that people have is what I call "beating a dead horse." You can overwork yourself and your child or student. By making the lesson too long

You run the risk of frustrating both the student and you. When that happens, no one is learning.

So try and keep the lesson to about thirty minutes. I would divide the lesson into a ten-minute session to reinforce old words from the previous lesson and introduce new words; and a twenty-minute application process for the new words in the form of activities and games.

When first beginning sight words, work on no more than three unfamiliar words at a time to make it manageable for your child. Introduce one word at a time, using the five teaching techniques.

Hold up the flash card for the first word, and go through what I call the "three finger punch", in order. Then introduce the second word, and go through all three teaching techniques, and so on.

The Three-Fingered Punch of Learning

1. See and Say, the child is introduced to the new word (flash cards are great),  and says the new word.
2. Spell and Say.  the child spells the word, then says the word.
3. Write and Say. The child writes the word, then says the word again.

This lesson should establish basic familiarity with the new words. This part of a sight words session should be brisk and last no more than ten minutes. As your child gets more advanced, you might increase the number of words you work on in each lesson.

Begin each subsequent lesson by reviewing words from the previous lesson. Words often need to be covered a few times for the child to fully internalize them. 

Remember: solid knowledge of a few words is better than weak knowledge of a lot of words!

Go through the See and Say exercise for each of the review words. If your child struggles to recognize a word, cover that word again in the main lesson, going through all five teaching techniques. If he has trouble with more than two of the review words, then set aside the new words you were planning to introduce and devote that day’s lesson to review.

Note: The child should have a good grasp of — but does not need to have completely mastered — a word before it gets replaced in your lesson plan. Use your game time to provide lots of repetition for these words until the child has thoroughly mastered them.

Learning sight words take lots of repetition.  Games are the perfect platform for that 

Spell Quiz has the perfect online games for spelling reinforcement

In my experience, the games do not need to be complicated. I have used hangman, versions of "go fish," as well as memory to help my pupils. Be original. Have fun.

Of course, every child will make mistakes in the process of learning sight words. They might get confused between similar-looking words or struggle to remember phonetically irregular words.

Do not scold the child for making a mistake or even repeat the incorrect word. Just reinforce the correct word and then move on.



Image by Wokandapix from Pixabay


Flash Cards

Since Dolch is the only one that separates words by grade level, it was the only one with separate flashcard files. For better use, it is recommended that you print on card stock, or print on paper and glue/tape to traditional flash cards.

Dolch Sight Words

Pre-Kindergarten Kindergarten
First Grade Second Grade
Third Grade Dolch Nouns

Fry Sight Words

Top 150 Sight Words


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