Making a Word Bank
(From the Dolch list)


Starting a Word Bank - Day 1

  1. Start on the appropriate column of the Dolch list. Your child's teacher can help you determine where to begin
  2. Point to each word and ask your child to read it.
  3. Decide whether to "add" the word to the word bank.
    • If your child reads the word correctly without hesitation, do not add it.
    • If your child fails to read it correctly within three seconds, do not add it.
    • If your child can read it correctly, but it takes some effort then add it to the word bank.
  4. Put word on its own card
  5. Repeat this process until you have about 5-7 words.
  6. Stack the cards randomly. Hold the stack in one hand and ask your child to read the word on top.
  7. Sort into two piles - one pile should be words that were read quickly and correctly and the other should be words that were read incorrectly and/or took some effort.

Note: your presentation should be brisk. Don't stop to "teach." You can do this later.
Note: if your child looks at the word on top of the stack and does not say the word immediately, mentally count, "One apple-two apple-three apple." If you reach "Three apple" and the child still has not said the word correctly, you should say the word aloud and place it in the "incorrect/effortful" pile.
Note: One of the reasons you need to sort into 2 decks as the child reads is to keep an appropriate ratio between "pretty good" words and "trouble" words. More specifically, a "torture deck" that consists primarily of "trouble" words will not benefit and only frustrate your child. Thus, the UURC suggests that for every "trouble" word in the deck, you have 5 "pretty good" words. For example, a deck of 20 words would contain no more than 4 "trouble" words.

Starting a Word Bank - Day 2

  1. Continue using the Dolch list. Begin where you finished yesterday and repeat above procedures.
  2. When you have acquired 5-7 new words add those to the words from yesterday and now present the entire stack to your child.
  3. Sort them into two piles (see #7 from Day 1)

Using a Word Bank - Day 3 and beyond

  1. Continue in this manner until you have built the deck to about 25 words--maximum. When your child can read these words with little or no difficulty choose the strongest 15 and "retire" them. (Celebrate your child's success. Put this pile of words aside, and review them occasionally for maintenance.)
  2. Gradually build the deck up to 25 words again.


  1. Occasionally go back through the list and ask your child to read words that were previously read incorrectly. Over time those words will be added to the word bank.
  2. When you finish the Dolch list, you can obtain additional words. Ask your child's teacher to supply you with more (These should be words that your child needs to know and that are seen often in his or her reading)
  3. For particularly troublesome words, you might try the "2-2-2" technique (Wilson Language Systems, 2002):
    • Read the word from the card
    • Using 2 fingers, trace letters of the word on the card itself while spelling aloud; say word when finished (repeat)
    • Without looking at the card, use 2 fingers trace letters of the word on table while spelling aloud. say word when finished (repeat)
    • Using same 2 fingers, raise arm and lock elbow. "Sky write" the letters of the word while spelling aloud. Say word. (repeat)
    • Please note: this should be reserved for particularly troublesome words only!