Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Memorising Dolch words also known as HFW


A former teacher from the UK, Pat Stone, posted the above image on Twitter. I then tweeted the following:

Luqman Michel @luqmanmichel

One of the widely held beliefs is that HFW (Dolch words) cannot be memorised by kids, dyslexic or otherwise. Kids in Chinese schools have to memorise 600 words per year for 6 years while learning to read in Malay and English and Han Yu Pinyin. What's your view?

Dr. Sam Bommarito a centrist responded as follows:

Dr. Sam Bommarito @DoctorSam7 Replying to @luqmanmichel @PATSTONE55 and 12 others

The problem with memorizing sight words is that by the time they reach third grade students need to know at least 15,000 words. Not enough time to memorize them all- they need to learn to decode.  I wrote a blog around this point.  Here is the LINK

I have read the link provided by Dr. Sam above and disagree with a few statements but will comment on it in another post.

Meanwhile, here is my Tweet in response to the above comment by Dr.Sam.

I specifically said HFW (Dolch) words.

Sight word are words that are instantly and effortlessly recalled from memory, regardless of whether they are phonically regular or irregular.

A sight-word vocabulary refers to the pool of words a student can effortlessly recognise.


I am only referring to the 220 Dolch words that comprise 50 to 70% of the words in kids' storybooks. Many of these words are phonetic. However, by teaching kids to rote memorise a few words in each of my lessons they are able to read many sentences right from their first lesson.


The Dolch words they learn by rote memory are subsequently reconciled with words they learn phonetically. 

No one in the world knows how kids learn to read. In most cases, the brain figures out how to read. Read my post at https://www.dyslexiafriend.com/2022/03/dehaene-how-brain-learns-to-read.html  and then let's discuss.


The brain figures out many words via patterns and analogies. Once a kid learns words such as bat, cat, mat, pat, and then is taught the word batch he will know how to read catch, match and patch without being prompted.


Having learned some words, the mind is capable of reading unfamiliar words by combining parts or whole of different words.

I looked at the online dictionary for words starting with ‘con’ and there are hundreds of words starting with 4 letter words to 15 letter words.


I picked a word at random – confer. Say someone reads this unfamiliar word to me and:

If I have the word cave in my vocabulary, will I be able to read an unfamiliar word concave?

If I know the word text will I be able to read the unfamiliar word context?


If I know the word figure will I be able to read the unfamiliar word configure? So, to say that one has to memorise 15,000 words is simply repeating without thinking what the internet has duped people into believing. For details please read my post at https://www.dyslexiafriend.com/2022/04/kathy-rastles-logical-fallacy.html#more


To see how I combine phonics with Dolch words memorising and getting dyslexic kids to read many sentences in the first lesson please look at my FOC lessons here


As a challenge, I started recording the progress of my current student who was unable to read a single sentence when he came to me. Follow his progress from lesson 1 to lesson 6 (latest lesson) at www.dyslexiafriend.com


Here is a post where I explain what my lessons are all about.

I teach phonics using word families, Dolch words memorisation, context clues once they can decode, patterns and analogies.


 Here are my lessons and report after each lesson with my current student.

1. My first one hour with Jack. LINK.

2. My second hour with Jack.  LINK.

3. My third one hour with Jack. LINK.  

4. My fourth one hour with Jack. LINK. 

5. My fifth one hour with Jack. LINK.  

6. My sixth one hour with Jack. LINK.  



1 comment:

Luqman Michel said...

There was a lot of Q&A between Dr.Sam and me on Twitter as soon as I posted the above. Like most others I have seen on Twitter, he twitted without having read the article or the links in full.

I did not understand his stand on why he continued saying that it is a waste of time teaching kids to memorise the HFW.

I have mentioned several times in my posts that the only homework I give my students is for them to memorise the 8 Dolch words I give them during each lesson. My condition for parents is for them to ensure that they know the 8 new Dolch words by heart when they arrive for the next lesson.

When they have memorised these words, especially the irregular words, there are far fewer mistakes in their essay writing and their scores improve and their self-esteem is restored.

Once the HFW are memorised they are reinforced each time they read new lessons as they appear in the books as well as in storybooks they read.