On Friday, I presented a professional development session for some incredible Seattle public school teachers. During the course of my session, I modeled the “look, say, name, cover, writer, check” strategy that was originally introduced by Diane Snowball and Faye Bolton in their book, Spelling K-8: Planning and Teaching (Stenhouse, 1999).
In a nutshell, this strategy invites students to create a mental image of an unfamiliar word (or parts of it if it’s a long word) in their minds. This strategy uses the following steps, as reflected on page 214 of Spelling K-8:
- “Look at the word, perhaps noticing words within the word, looking at the parts of the word, or underlining known parts.
- Say the word.
- Name the letters of the word.
- Cover the word and picture it in your mind.
- Write the word from the picture in your mind.
- Check to see that you have all of the letters in the word, and in the correct order.”
Whenever I introduce a new strategy to teachers, I try to provide an authentic learning experience for them as adult writers. So when I modeled the “look, say, name, cover, write, check” strategy, I chose an adult-level word to learn (as opposed to words like “can” or “because”). I selected the word “pneumonia.”
While the teachers enjoyed learning this new strategy, I made a rather noticeable error: I failed to clearly articulate the purpose of the strategy. This became obvious when a teacher responded, “I don’t think children should be learning words like ‘pneumonia.'” While this strategy could be used to learn any unfamiliar word, I clarified that “look, say, name, cover, write, check” was an ideal way to teach high-frequency words, words that are frequently used in reading and writing.
As a literacy coach, I need to remember that teachers and students learn in similar ways. If they don’t understand the purpose of a strategy, they may miss the learning entirely.