Look, Spot, Split, and Read

Decoding words is a seemingly effortless task for proficient readers, but this skill presents a real struggle for the emerging/developing decoders in our System 44 classes. When I taught my first System 44 class 12 years ago, I was clueless about what method to use to teach my students how to break down words into their parts so as to set them on the road to reading success. I figured if they couldn't do this task by grade 7, then they may never be able to do it. Furthermore, how could I teach them this skill when I did not know the difference between a diphthong and digraph, or the 6 syllable types? This type of instruction, I reckoned, was best left to elementary teachers.

When I first started teaching System 44, neither the Dashboard for Next Generation nor HMH Teacher Central, which includes numerous digital resources was available.  I studied the TIG (Teacher Implementation Guide)  along with the Teacher's Guide. My goal was to learn the essentials of teaching non-decoders how to decode words in a safe, welcoming, and supportive environment.

As I began to learn the terminology to support my striving readers, I became more confident that I could acquire the skills to teach them how to decode. I decided to begin learning one of the main concepts and strategies of the  software, Decodable Digest, and differentiated instruction in the Code and Word Strategy lessons- 6 syllable types and the Look, Spot, Split, and Read strategy.  When students move sequentially through the software topics and activities, they are exposed to guided practice using this method.

So what is the Look, Spot, Split, and Read strategy?  In a nutshell, it is a word attack strategy that helps students decode multisyllabic words by recognizing familiar word parts, identify vowel spots, split a word into its syllables, and read the word.

  •       Look: The student identifies prefixes, suffixes, or inflectional endings in a word.
  •        Spot: The student identifies the "vowel spots" to determine how many syllables a word has.
  •      Split: The student uses strategies that are taught (the 6 syllable types) to break a word into syllables.
  •         Read: The student reads the word part by part, and then the whole word.


Examples in Action

Let's use the Look, Spot, Split and Read strategy to decode the following words: jogging and unbutton

Jogging: First look. Let's look for prefixes, suffixes, or endings in the word. This word ends in –ing. Now let's look at the base word and spot the vowels. This base word has one vowel spot, so it has one syllable.  The base word is jog.  We've found the base word and ending, so we don’t have to split it any further. Since jog ends in a vowel-consonant pattern, the "g" is doubled, and the two consonants stand for one sound. Now, let's read the word. The word is jogging.

Unbutton: First look. Let's look for prefixes, suffixes, or endings in the word. This word begins with "un"- so we can split off the prefix "un"- from the base word. A prefix makes its own syllable. Now, let's spot the vowels in the base word button. There are two vowel spots in the word button: "u and o". When we see two vowel spots, we know that the word has two syllables. Now, let's split the base word between the two consonants. Mark the syllable split between the two consonants and pronounce the word for the students: un- but- ton =unbutton.  Now, let's read the word "unbutton."

The System 44 Resources for Differentiated Instruction (RDI) offers numerous lessons and examples in teaching word analysis skills to students. You can access the RDI via the ITS (Interactive Teaching System) for Next Generation teachers and for teachers that have System 44 and READ 180 Universal, lessons are also available under the resources tab in Teacher Central. You can also check out your updated landing page for System 44 connections.


It is essential to our students' success that we reinforce the word strategies skills our students use in the System 44 program during the whole- and small-group instructional times in class. Teacher-delivered explicit instruction is crucial for acceleration. The System 44 resources provide outstanding assistance to educators who are new to learning the Phonics 101 terminology. Spend some time "learning the system" as you prepare your lessons this year. Both you and your students will be glad that Looked, Spotted, Made Split Second decisions, and Read.

System 44 Educator
  • Can you post a link on the print out of the 6 syllables and the Look, Spot, Split, and Read Strategy ? Thanks!