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