Before beginning readers are introduced to the words on the Dolch list of “sight” words, they should possess a minimum of information about the sound symbols of written English.
The words in Tier One can be spelled when the beginner has learned the single letters of the alphabet and the sounds they represent in writing.
REMINDER: When teaching the single letters of the alphabet, teach all the sounds that the single letter can represent. Teach these sounds in the order of their frequency. That is, tell the child that the letter c has two sounds, /k/, /s/. Teach the sounds in this order because the letter c represents the sound /k/ more often than it does the sound /s/. The single letter vowels (a,e,i/y,o, u) all represent 2-3 sounds each. Teach the child all the sounds when introducing these letters. The first vowel sound is always the “short” sound. The second sound is always the “long” sound (the letter’s name). The letters a, o, and u have “third” sounds. The third sound of a is /ah/ as in father /. The third sound of o is /oo/ as in do. The third sound of u is the sound it has in pull.
The child who possesses this much information is prepared to learn to write and read a third of the 220 words on the Dolch List. More importantly, a child who learns to spell these words phonetically—as opposed to learning to recognize their shapes on flashcards—will be equipped to read hundreds of other words not on the Dolch List.
Words that can be spelled with single consonant letters and the first sounds of the single vowel letters.
black (teach the child that ck stands for the /k/ sound at the end of words)
pick (Again, point out that ck is a single spelling symbol for the sound /k/)
Words that can be spelled with single consonant letters and the second sounds of the single vowel letters.
a (explain that the word a is sometimes pronounced with the sound of long a and sometimes as “uh.”
don’t (Explain that don’t is a contraction of two words, do and not. Explain that the apostrophe takes the place of the missing letter o in not)
find (Explain that the i represents the long vowel sound because it is followed by two consonants.)
kind (Point out that kind takes a long vowel sound, like find)
Words that can be spelled with single consonant letters and the third sounds of the single vowel letters.
full (Point out that the letter l is usually doubled at the end of a word)
NOTE: When the beginner understands what a syllable is, these words may also be taught in this tier:
When introducing syllables, tell the child that every syllable must have a vowel. When a vowel is followed by a consonant, the vowel is usually short (up-on). When the syllable has only one vowel and the vowel is not followed by a consonant, the vowel is usually long (o-pen).