A quick and engaging activity, Look Touch Say is a nifty way to practice syllable types, spelling patterns, word definitions, Latin roots, and much more. Because it constantly cycles back to the basics of what you want to teach, it promotes mastery learning. And because it’s a short routine, taking only two to three minutes, it makes for a good warm up prior to word building or word dictation activities. I’ve modified and adapted it over time so I can use it in a variety of situations. Once you become familiar with it, I think you’ll find yourself doing the same.
First, let’s look at using Look Touch Say as a way for younger children to practice common spelling patterns, and let’s discuss manipulatives rather than a word list as the material for teaching.
To start the activity, decide on the patterns you want to teach and/or review. Patterns can be considered as chunks (ate, ain, eep, etc.,), vowel teams (ee, ai, oi, igh), syllable types ( r-controlled, open, closed), inflectional endings (ing, er, ed), and so on. Plastic tiles, magnetic tiles, foam blocks – anything will do. The materials I used with kindergarteners and third graders came from companies such as Step By Step Learning, Touchphonics, and Wilson Language, but you can, of course, make your own materials.
Let’s imagine it is November and you are teaching first grade. Let’s also imagine you have been using the 37 Most Common Phonograms chart (mentioned in my last blog) as your scope and sequence. Last week’s lesson focused on short o patterns: ock, op, ot. This week your focus is short U patterns: ug, ump, unk. To reinforce the spelling of the patterns, as well as to have students notice the differences in the sound and spelling of the patterns, you decide to do five minutes of Look Touch Say. Here is a routine and a script for the activity:
Have the students place the patterns in a row on their desks. Pick a pattern, such as ump, and say, “Look for ump.” Follow that command with “Touch it.” At this point, the students should only be scanning for the word part and then touching it with their index finger. Monitor their touches and guide and correct anyone who has made an error. After two to five seconds, depending on the age and ability of your students, the number of manipulatives on their desks, and how much monitoring and correcting you are doing, give the command, “Say it!” At this point, the students should say the word part. After praising their attentiveness, go to the next pattern.
The routine is merely a repeated cycle of commands, which sounds like this:
The Look For and Touch It commands give children think time. As you scan the room, wait until every child as found the word. Only then say, “Say it!”
You can also mix in the command “Spell it”:
Another variation is Look, Touch, See, Say, Spell. In this variation, you incorporate the all-important strategy of seeing the word (or in this case the pattern) in your head. But be careful: this sequence might be too much for young students.
You can also work in commands that are more open ended. For example, you might say, “Look for a pattern with the /ŭ/ sound.” In this case, when you give the “Say it” command, some students might say unk, some might say ug, and some might say ump. This variation is not for teachers who like orderly and uniform responses! But it you’re okay with a bit of chaos, try it out.
Now let’s consider doing Look Touch Say with older students, and this time using a word list or word cards. Pull a subset of words from your master list, print the subset as a list, and give the list to the large group or small group of students you are working with. It might look like the list below. Or you can have the kids put the words onto cards that can later be used for pattern sorts.
First, review the words by simply saying, “Look for fruit.” Quickly follow that with “Touch it” and after a pause, “Say it.” Next might be “Look for nephew.” “Touch it.” [Pause] “Say it.” This type of direct and explicit review, cycled over and over again, can be especially helpful to ESL students or students in special education, who need practice and repetition in seeing and saying words.
Next, move to noticing patterns. For example, you might say, “Look for a word with the ing pattern.” “Touch it.” “Say it!” Here all the children would say, “bruising.” But if you were to say, “Look for a word with the vowel-consonant-e pattern,” then different children would touch and say different words. You might follow up their response with “Very good! I heard some say huge, some say flute, and others say suitcase. Those are all correct. Each has the vowel-consonant-e pattern.”
Add a bit more by saying and asking the following: “Look at huge and flute. How are they alike? What long vowel sound is produced in those words? How is it spelled? Look at suitcase. Is that word similar to huge and flute in any way? How is it different? How many long vowel sounds are in that word? How are those sounds spelled?”
You can also think in terms of syllable types rather than patterns. For example, you might say, “I’m thinking of a word with an open syllable. Look.” After the students look over their spelling list, say, “Touch.” Students then touch a word with appropriate syllable, in this case produce (the open syllable is pro). Or you might say, “Look for a word with a vowel-consonant-e syllable,” which leads to students pointing to and saying either suitcase or, more subtly, produced.
Finally, bring meaning into this routine. Start simply, with a simple word definition routine such as “Look for the word that means discolored skin that comes from an injury” (bruise) or “Look for a word that means the son of one’s brother or sister” (nephew). Next, move to something more conceptual in nature, such as inflectional endings. A command for an inflectional ending might be “Look for a word that happened in the past.” “Touch it.” [Pause] “Say it.” Here the students would respond, “Produced.” This might be followed with a quick review of the inflectional ending, its meaning, and the principle for spelling it., which might sound like, “What spelling ending tells us an action happened in the past?” After the children respond with “ed,” you might say, “And what is our rule for adding an ending, like ed, to a word that already ends with e?”
I have found that students learn the Look Touch Say routine quickly. Soon they will be ready to mimic it back to you. When this is the case, ask for a volunteer to lead others using a word he or she has picked. Still later, buddy children up and have them practice in pairs, or put the routine on your “I Can…” list and allow children to work with each other during your small group / guided reading time.
Good luck and have fun!
I am a teacher, literacy consultant, author, musician, nature lover, and life long learner.