Tuesday, June 21, 2011

220 names

220 names

220 faces are too many for me

220 sight words are too many words for


with memories like mine1

by Don McCabe

As a teacher I have had the terrifying experience of trying to match

the names of students with their faces. I was given many tips on how to

remember names, but with five classes of nearly 40 students each and

with students transferring in and out, every September was a nightmare.

When I became a reading specialist with a caseload of only 50

students, I found I could learn the names quickly. The problem before

was that I felt overloaded with too many names and faces. So, when I

applied this difficulty to the problem of my students who didn’t know the

Dolch Basic Sight Vocabulary of 220 Words (Dolch, 1941), I thought it

might be easier for them if I limited the number of words for them to

learn by sight.

In examining the Dolch list, I found that about 170 of the 220 Dolch

words were sufficiently patterned to teach via the word family approach.

Words like all, call, fall, and small were to be taught as part of the -all

family. For example, if a student were to miss any one of those four

words on a drill, I might ask him/her to write the word all ten times with

a green felt tip pen.










Then I would have the student change the first all to tall by adding a

black letter t in front of the green all. Then I would have him/her change

1Abridged versions published in: The Reading Teacher, April 1978 & Speld


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