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Dolch Sight Word Recognition and Mental Images

Lesson Plan and poem, "I Can't Draw an AT"

Materials Needed:

Lesson Plan
Dolch Nouns, Sentences, and Very Short Stories
A Funny Dolch Word Book #1
A Funny Dolch Word Book #2
A Funny Dolch Word Book #3
Albert, the Apple Eating Appaloosa

Age group:

This can be adapted for all ages.


1. Visual Recognition of Dolch Sight Words
2. Thinking about What is Read (Creation of Mental Images)


Read the rationale and collect materials.

Supplementary Plans if Needed

Many Dolch words look alike, e.g. come, came, no, on, three, the.
See special techniques for teaching similarities - differences of Dolch words.
Use worksheets for Dolch Nouns.
Stimulate mental images with Spirograph Deluxe Design Set. See other selected creative toys at the Toys and Games page of this site.


Have children read Dolch Sentences and Very Short Stories.
After they have success with these, move on to Dolch sight word books.
Encourage children to question, reread, and look for context clues.
Ask specific comprehension questions.
Ask them to describe scenes.
Ask them to select something interesting about the story.
Let them relate scenes or stories to their own experiences or observations. (Sometimes is easier to talk about some else especially with the morals in fables.)
Let them draw a picture to represent a scene or story.


Because children love illustrations, I wondered about adding one small illustration to each story in my Dolch books. To help with this decision, I made a survey of consultants, reading specialists, teachers, and others who are selling my Dolch books. The majority prefer the books without illustrations. Some said the books would be equally useful with or without a few illustrations such as the ones in Albert, the Apple-eating Appaloosa: Dolch Horse Stories.

An artist often expresses feelings with drawings. Not having that talent, I draw pictures with words. "I Can't Draw an at" is such an endeavor. I enjoyed writing it. I hope you enjoy reading it.

More about Books without Illustrations

The original Dolch books had few illustrations.

Illustrations are important but children often passively absorb pictures rather than create personal mental images. Pictures drawn with words help spur the imagination. Recorded stories such as those at Eye in the Ear: Classic Children's Audio can help children call on their own imaginations. A search at google.com for catalog of recordings of old radio programs brought up some links which might interest you. Books without illustrations can also help children create mental images.

Many reading programs emphasize Dolch sight words. If readers stumble over simple words which comprise 50% to 75% of all reading material, this takes a lot of energy away from tackling new words. It hinders comprehension when readers are struggling with individual words rather than thinking of the entire sentence. It also hinders comprehension for a reader to miss service words such as for, of, to, at, no, on. There are opposing viewpoints about teaching reading. One part of the discussion is about the use of illustrations.

Ruth Harris has suggestions for using illustrations to help teach Dolch words. Picture clues might help in guessing some Dolch words. For example, the hat is in the box. However the reader might not focus on the word, in, and the reader might not recognize the word in isolation. Pictures of individual Dolch words can't be drawn. Literacy Connections has templates and instructions for teaching WORDO which is like Bingo.

We need to teach visual recognition of the words in print. Dolch words are in children's listening and speaking vocabularies for several years before they try to recognize words in print. For ESL students, it helps to have oral translations rather than written translations unless they can already read the words in their own languages. See Spanish translations of some Dolch words.

We learn to read by reading and to swim by swimming although techniques, theories, and role models are important for both activities. Use my Dolch stories to encourage children to think about what they are reading and to form their own mental images. Some teachers use my Dolch books for independent reading. Others get more out of them by using the lesson plan for Dolch Sight Word Recognition and Mental Images.