Sight Words, Reading and Word Families

We all know the old war of reading; sight words vs phonic, whole language vs phonic and so on. I have chosen to take a varied approach with our boys. We read a great deal and have a mass of books thus meeting the “rich print environment” and the “submerge them in real literature” aspects of the whole language approach (and I have a labeling obsession too). However, I admit THAT has very little to do with learning to read, and is more an aspect of our family, our parenting and our desire for the boys to love to read, rather than how we hope they will learn to read. Big Brother and I are working though a traditional phonics study, and plan to stay at it till at least 3rd (adding spelling in 1st grade) to ensure a strong and functional ability to decode, not guess at, unfamiliar words quickly and confidently as they are encountered. I have also chosen to practice ‘sight words’ with Big Brother (and Little Brother also) though we will not be depending on memorization in place of decoding and phonics as an approach to reading. Nevertheless the evidence that sight words can effect fluency of reading is strong and many English words ‘break the phonics rules’ and have to be learned outside the decoding of phonics.


A word about sight words:


A list of English sight words, The Dolch Word List, was compiled by Edward William Dolch, PhD, in 1948. The list was originally published in his book ”

Problems in Reading“. Dolch compiled the list based on words used in children’s reading books in the 1930s and 40s. The list contains 220 “service words” that must be quickly recognized in order to achieve reading fluency.

The Dolch Word List is also called Sight Words or The Dolch 220. It includes the most frequently used words in the English language. Sight words make up 50 to 70 percent of any general text.

Big Brother is able to decode simple CVC words at this point, but it not ready to dive into even the simplest easy readers. What he does need, and is ready for, is practice, practice, and more practice with CVC words. I have decided to print several sight words and also word family flash cards to use for reading practice.


For more reading practice I printed the following flashcards on card stock:

  • – I chose this page of word cards because it offered short vowel practice – a list for each of the five main vowels and then 2 cards that are mixes. All work phonically and are solid practice on “decoding” or “sounding words out”. 
  •– set one, two and three – the Pre-Primer (pre-school) list of Dolch Sight Words. We did not do sight words for pre-school so we will work on mastering this list, then move on to the Kindergarten list. There are many options for printing the DSW from, I chose this one as they are simple flashcards, no pictures, and I liked the size.
  • – I chose to print only 3 word families to start with (In addition to the other flashcards I printed, that is). The an, ap, and at families. I will return and print the other sets. (to get to the flashcards, choose the activities option for each set). I do not like that there are only 6 flashcards for each set, but I can make more later (or find others).

This printing gives us quite a stack of word cards for Big Brother to start practicing.


I then cut the cards apart and laminated them for repeated use and “play”. Both my boys like to be able to handle things, and I’d like the cards to last. After we master reading them, I can see them being used for alphabetical order dills and so on.


1 Comment

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One response to “Sight Words, Reading and Word Families

  1. Crystal

    as always, you are a great planner!

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