Certain words are known as high-frequency words, popcorn words, memory words, or sight words. These words are the most common words kids will encounter in grade-level texts. Often, these words don’t follow typical phonics rules and are not easily sounded out. Teaching kids to recognize these words instantly improves reading fluency skills and sets them up for success.
There are 2 main sets of sight word lists typically taught in schools. The first is Dolch sight words which was compiled by Dr. Edward William Dolch in the 1930s-40s. These words make up around 80% of texts written for children. These 220 words are broken up by grade levels from pre-k through 3rd grade and also feature a separate noun list.
The second set of words was created by Dr. Edward Fry, was updated in the 1980s, and encompasses 1,000 of the most common words. These Fry words make up 90% of words kids will see in books, newspapers, and websites and are broken into sets of 100 by grade level.
The first 100 Fry words are intended for preschool and kindergarten students and include: a, about, all, am, 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, its, like, long, look, made, make, many, may, more, my, no, not, now, number, of, on, one, or, other, out, part, people, said, see, she, so, some, than, that, the, their, them, 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. Click here to check out the full Fry word lists.
The Dolch pre-k sight words include: 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. To see the other Dolch lists, click here.
There is a lot of overlap between the 2 list sets but obviously, there are around 3x as many words on the Fry list compared to the Dolch sets. Kids will see these words over and over throughout their lives and being able to instantly identify and read the words is essential to reading fluency and success.
Sight words are important for young kids to learn and are typically broken up into smaller lists. When teaching sight words, you’ll want to break them down a bit further and work on a few at a time, especially for preschool and kindergarten children. Once they know the sight words from one or both of these lists, reading and writing will be much easier and more automatic.