It can be very confusing to hear the terms ‘sight-words’, ‘Dolch’ words, high-frequency or high-utility words tossed around interchangeably.
Sight words are words that one can read at first sight, automatically, at a glance. Ideally, one does not need to read a sight word in the context of a sentence, with the aid of a picture, or break it down into parts. It is instantly recognized.
‘High-frequency’ or ‘high-utility’ words are those seen most often in a given language.
The ‘Dolch’ word list, published in 1948 by Edward William Dolch, Ph.D, is a list of 220 words most often found in text passages. The Dolch words are divided into lists: PrePrimer, Primer, and the primary grade levels (1-3), and continue to be used as a literacy assessment tool.
A child’s sight-word reading vocabulary, the number of high-frequency / high-utility words s/he can read at a glance is assessed by teachers using one or more of the accepted lists, for example, the Dolch or Fry word list, the lists contained in the Reading Recovery Observation Survey, the BURT word list, etc. As these lists are made up of the most frequently used words in our language, some of the lists appear almost identical at the beginning.
Which list do you use for assessment, and why?