Learn the history behind Dolch and Fry sight words, and why they are important in developing fluent readers.



Follow the sight words teaching techniques. Learn research-validated and classroom-proven ways to introduce words, reinforce learning, and correct mistakes.


Flash Cards

Print your own sight words flash cards. Create a set of Dolch or Fry sight words flash cards, or use your own custom set of words.



Play sight words games. Make games that create fun opportunities for repetition and reinforcement of the lessons.


1. What Are Sight Words?

Sight words are words that should be memorized to help a child learn to read and write. Learning sight words allows a child to recognize these words at a glance without needing to break the words down into their individual letters and is the way strong readers recognize most words. Knowing common words by sight makes reading easier and faster, because the reader does not need to stop to try and sound out each individual word, letter by letter.

Sight Words are memorized so that a child can recognize commonly used or phonetically irregular words at a glance, without needing to go letter-by-letter.

Other terms used to describe sight words include: service words, instant words (because you should recognize them instantly), snap words (because you should know them in a snap), and high frequency words. You will also hear them referred to as Dolch words or Fry words, the two most commonly used sight words lists.

These pages contain resources to teach sight words, including: sight words flash cards, lessons, and games. If you are new to sight words, start with the teaching strategies to get a road map for teaching the material, showing you how to sequence the lessons and activities.

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2. Types of Sight Words

Sight words fall into two categories:

  • Frequently Used Words – Words that occur commonly in the English language, such as it, can, and will. Memorizing these words makes reading much easier and smoother, because the child already recognizes most of the words and can concentrate their efforts on new words. For example, knowing just the Dolch Sight Words would enable you to read about 50% of a newspaper or 80% of a children’s book.
  • Non-Phonetic Words – Words that cannot be decoded phonetically, such as buy, talk, or come. Memorizing these words with unnatural spellings and pronunciations teaches not only these words but also helps the reader recognize similar words, such as guy, walk, or some.

There are several lists of sight words that are in common use, such as Dolch, Fry, and Core Curriculum. There is a great deal of overlap among the lists, but the Dolch sight word list is the most popular and widely used.

2.1 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. The Dolch sight 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 the Dolch words, it makes reading much easier, because the child can then focus his or her attention on the remaining words.


2.2 Fry Sight Words

The Fry Sight Words list is a more modern list of words, 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 sight word list would equip a child to read about 90% of the words in a typical book, newspaper, or website.


2.3 Other Sight Words Lists

There are many newer variations, such as the Common Core sight words, that tweak the Dolch and Fry sight words lists to find the combination of words that is the most beneficial for reading development. Many teachers take existing sight word lists and customize them, adding custom words from their own classroom lessons.

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3. Research

Our sight words teaching techniques are based not only on classroom experience but also on the latest in child literacy research. Here is a bibliography of some of the research supporting our approach to sight words instruction:

  • Ceprano, M. A. “A review of selected research on methods of teaching sight words.” The Reading Teacher 35:3 (1981): 314-322.
  • Ehri, Linnea C. “Grapheme–Phoneme Knowledge Is Essential for Learning to Read Words in English.” Word Recognition in Beginning Literacy. Mahwah, NJ: L. Erlbaum Associates, 1998.
  • Enfield, Mary Lee, and Victoria Greene. Project Read. www.projectread.com. 1969.
  • Gillingham, A., and B. Stillman. The Gillingham Manual. Cambridge, MA: Educatoris Publishing Service, 1936.
  • Nist, Lindsay, and Laurice M. Joseph. “Effectiveness and Efficiency of Flashcard Drill Instructional Methods on Urban First-Graders’ Word Recognition, Acquisition, Maintenance, and Generalization.” School Psychology Review 37:3 (Fall 2008): 294-308.
  • Stoner, J.C. “Teaching at-risk students to read using specialized techniques in the regular classroom.” Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal 3 (1991).
  • Wilson, Barbara A. “The Wilson Reading Method.” Learning Disabilities Journal 8:1 (February 1998): 12-13.
  • Wilson, Barbara A. Wilson Reading System. Millbury, MA: Wilson Language Training, 1988.

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9 Responses to “Sight Words”

  1. Yeonsu Lee

    Thank you for great information!

  2. Cee Cee

    Thank you for seeking answers to reading problems some people have.

  3. Kelly Cain

    Thank you for sending the link to my mom for this website, i can’t wait to explore it more and introduce it to my kids!!

  4. Salex Dihan

    Do you break up the sight words to make it easy?

    ADMIN – Hi Salexdihan,

    Yes, you will only work on a couple of new Sight Words at a time. The youngest children can only handle 2-3 new words at a time. Third graders can handle introducing \ up to 10 new words at a time.

  5. Julia

    Isn’t teaching sight words the same thing as teaching with the thoroughly discredited whole-word reading method?

    ADMIN – Hi Julia,

    We get strong readers teaching Sight Words in conjunction with Phonics.

    If you teach only phonics, where a child is sounding out words as their only approach, you run into two problems. First, some words are phonetically irregular (such as ‘little’), and can’t be sounded out. Second, sounding out even common words (such as ‘the’), makes reading slow.

    If you are teaching only Sight Words, there are also problems. First, if you come across an unfamiliar word, you won’t have many strategies to figure out the word. Second, when you start writing, spelling is going to be harder for you.

  6. Gerry Martin

    Thank you SO much for all of this information about sight words and related reading concepts. I will relay this info to friends with children with special needs.

  7. Jose Hernandez, Sr

    After retiring from the USAF as an Education and Training officer and began a second career as a teacher. I was amazed at the number of children in middle and high school grades who lacked reading skills. My retirement from teaching coincided with daughter’s assignment to a near by military base and my grandson’s preK eligibility. In our rural area the trip to school was a major concern therefore we decided that I would home-school my four year old grandson instead. From various sources I compiled and printed 393 sight words on 3 by 5 index cards for first to third grade students. Now at age 5 and a half and in kindergarten he can read third grade sight words and he is learning phonics at school. Our sessions are very short (20 minutes) and simple. He has 15 seconds to read a randomly selected index card. A correctly read word earns a check mark and if he can use it in a sentence he earns a plus sign too. I have four stacks of cards as follows: 1) Main stack, 2) one checkmark, 3) two checkmarks, 3)Mastered (Three checkmarks). It works. At school his teacher has him read to the other students to help motivate them.

  8. Anita Holaday

    In looking over your material here on the internet I see no classroom checklist for all students in the class so the teacher can at a glance tell what words most of her students do not know. This is very important when using a direct instruction mode of teaching reading.

    ADMIN – Hi Anita,

    Thanks for the suggestion! The feedback we receive from our users helps us decide what features to add to the site.

  9. Myeisha

    Thank you for the great information on sight words. I am homeschooling my 4 year old son with ADHD and autism for preschool. I will be teaching him sight words over the summer to get him prepared for kindergarten.


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