What’s the difference between Dolch and Fry Words?




Someone asked this at conferences and I didn’t know the answer, so…here it is.

Sight Words
Question: What is the difference between the Dolch and Fry sight words?

Answer: The Dolch list was created in the early 1900’s and is made up of the first 220 basic sight words. Between 50-75% of all words used in school books, library books, newspapers, and magazines are in the Dolch Basic Sight Vocabulary of 220 words. These words are “service words” (pronouns, adjectives, adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions, and verbs) which cannot be learned through the use of pictures. Because they are used to hold thoughts together, these words must be recognized at a glance before a child can read with confidence. Click here for the Dolch list. The Fry list was created as an updated list based on the changes in language and is made up of 1000 of the most commonly used words in the English language. It is ordered by frequency so all of the Dolch words are embedded in this list. These words make up about 90% of all written language. Click here for the Fry list.

Sight words are a primary word knowledge focus for both the first and second trimester benchmarks. Whether you use these words to address your benchmarks or to implement a word wall, remember that assessment drives instruction. Print out the word lists and make copies of the words for each child in your classroom. Individually meet with each student and have each student read the word list(s) to you. By highlighting the words your students do not know, you will have a quick and visual way of determining which words to teach first. Also, student writing journals are helpful in determining which words to teach. Look through the journals regularly for words students misspell or misuse in their writing. Lastly, as you listen to students read orally, note which sight words the students cannot decode and which sight words students mispronounce.


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