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9 Ways to Keep Reading and Spelling Lessons Motivating

Cartoon mother and daughter spelling with letter tiles

Any daily activity—whether it’s washing the dishes, walking the dog, or practicing piano—has the potential to become repetitive after a while. And that’s true of working on reading and spelling too.

That’s why the ability to keep your children motivated and open to learning is an important part of being a master teacher.

A happy, nurturing environment is essential to a pleasant educational experience.

When children are frustrated and dragging their feet, no one is learning … and no one is happy!

Keep Reading and Spelling Lessons Motivating!

Thankfully, there are several things you can do to encourage an upbeat and motivating atmosphere for reading and spelling lessons. These nine tips will help you keep your child’s reading and spelling lessons motivating—starting today!

  1. Work at your child’s level

    Cartoon child holding oversized book

    It’s important to select the appropriate level of reading or spelling instruction for your child. If you start at a level that is above your child’s head, he’ll start out feeling as if he’s already behind, which can promote feelings of inadequacy and stress caused by your child’s inability to perform up to the level expected. Try to avoid focusing on grade level—in fact, let go of grade levels. If your child needs to learn the rules for adding Silent E, go back to that lesson, no matter what “grade” he’s in.

  2. Set small, attainable goals

    Part of setting up your child for success is providing opportunities for frequent success. It is very motivating to reach a goal, and small successes will lead to more successes. For example, in AAR and AAS we teach just ONE concept at a time, allowing the child to be successful before moving on to the next concept.

  3. Set your child up for success

    Young cartoon girl on swing

    Don’t even think about sitting down for a reading or spelling lesson if your child is cranky, hungry, or full of pent-up energy! Go for a brisk walk around the block or send the kids outside for a 10-minute recess. Have a high-protein snack to keep the brain energy up, and get the good endorphins working in your child’s favor. Starting lessons on the right foot will help your child be more receptive to learning—and enjoying!—the new material.

  4. Keep things fun

    Make lesson times fun and engaging. All About Reading and All About Spelling were written with this in mind. Both programs use hands-on activities that are way more fun than the typical boring worksheets found in many programs. But these multisensory activities aren’t just fun—they will also help your child learn and retain the skills and concepts presented in the lessons. It’s fun with a purpose!

  5. Correct mistakes in a helpful, instructive way

    Cartoon mother helping daughter spell words with letter tiles

    Tailor your responses to your child’s specific errors. For example, if your child misspells a word that you feel he should have been able to spell, ask him to self-check his spelling to see if he can spot the mistake on his own. Or if your child reads a word with incorrect pronunciation, remind your child to “pronounce for spelling.” Review any skill or concept that is applicable to the situation or try working out the problem together with letter tiles.

  6. Use charts to show progress

    Happy cartoon boy holding progress chart

    It’s motivating to see where you’ve been and how much progress you and your child have made together. Take the time to track your advancement on the All About Reading and All About Spelling Progress Charts and celebrate each accomplishment accordingly. Make cupcakes, go to the beach, or visit Grandma—small celebrations can commemorate the occasion and provide incentive and excitement for future lessons.

  7. Avoid negative comments

    As motivating as the progress chart can be, you can just as quickly put a damper on your child’s enthusiasm by making negative comments during lesson time. Take steps to minimize negativity, and avoid expressing your own frustration or impatience with your child. Stay away from phrases such as:

    “You’re not trying.”
    “I’ve already taught this to you!”
    “I don’t think you’ll ever get this!”
    “Just concentrate.”

    These types of negative comments are never effective. No child ever thinks to himself, “Oh, you’re right. I will improve my concentration right now.” Instead, these phrases build frustration and resentment toward the lesson, and part of your child’s brain shuts down. Give a hug, take a break, and come back to the lesson later when both of you are ready to approach the lesson with a fresh perspective and your customary enthusiasm.

  8. Point out the positive

    Proud cartoon mother next to happy daughter

    A friendly, supportive teacher draws frequent attention to a child’s achievements, and doesn’t become bogged down in perpetually pointing out the child’s shortcomings or mistakes. Make it a point to regularly praise your child’s good work and progress, which will build your child’s confidence and encourage him to strive for further success. During your spelling lessons, include positive phrases such as:

    “Very good! You are a quick learner!”
    “You remembered that from yesterday—great!”
    “Way to go!”
    “Excellent—you did so well!”
    “You are doing great!”

    Our blog post on encouraging words gives many more examples and includes a free downloadable poster as a reminder.

  9. Always end a lesson on a positive note

    If your child is struggling with a concept, don’t end the lesson at the point of frustration. Back up to a point where the student can be successful, then spend a few minutes there before bringing the lesson to a close.

The way you approach reading and spelling lessons can have a huge effect on your child’s motivation. When you use the All About Reading and All About Spelling programs, tips for building motivation are built right into the lesson plans, making it easy for your kids to stay on track, stay motivated, and stay enthused about learning.

Do you have a tip for keeping reading and spelling lessons motivating? Please share it in the comments below!

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Catalina

says:

Thank you for all this advice! We appreciate all you do for creating an easy-to-follow curriculum that children love!! As a homeschooler newbie all this information helps!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I’m glad you found this helpful, Catalina. Please let me know if you have any questions. We were all homeschool newbies once upon a time.

Anne

says:

These tips are very simple – but practical. Very helpful

Joy

says:

Using letter tiles make learning visual, colorful and fun.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Yes, we agree, Joy! Letter tiles allow students to see and even touch phonograms like nothing else.

Al

says:

Had a spare box of parquetry tiles, drew words (in out line form). got a water paint box from the dollar shop. If my 3y old daughter got it right, she got to keep it in an old arnotts bicky tin after she painted it. Repeating daily after work and gradually adding words. Great fun for both of us.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Al,
What a fun way to make reading review hands-on and artistic, plus a treasured reminder of the words she has learned! This is very clever, and I know my children would have loved to paint words on wood tiles when they were little. Thank you for sharing this idea!

Kristin

says:

Love these simple ideas!

Lyzel

says:

Appreciate these practical tips 😊

Sandra. Calloo

says:

The pointers and content look interesting . I will explore these concepts this year in my class

Zaphina Hosein Chin

says:

Great tips. Just what I needed. Thanks.

Jessica

says:

One thing that made AAR level one super fun for my son was giving him a dart gun during word card review time. He loved pretending he was the sheriff, looking for “rule breaker” words, and shooting them with a dart. It was a little thing but it made him look forward to the lessons!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I can just picture your little sheriff, Jessica! What a fun and cute way to approach the lessons. Thank you for sharing this idea.

Lydia R.

says:

#9 is a good reminder.

With my young 4 y.o., I do read aloud time + 6-minute reading lesson with him almost everyday. He would usually sit on my lap or cuddle up next to me. When he’s being wriggly/distracted/uncooperative, I would ask him calmly (or try to, anyway!), “Are you done?” Surprisingly enough, 70% of the time, his answer is “No.” We would then continue the lesson.

Sometimes I’d give him a choice: “Do you want to learn reading first, or should your older brother practice piano first?” Sometimes he would answer, “J does piano.” (It’s Suzuki method so I have to coach my 8 y.o. during daily practice.) Other than that, reading lessons haven’t had anywhere as much struggle as I was dreading it to be. (My 4 y.o. is a lot more stubborn than my 8 y.o., which is why I was anticipating more struggles.)

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Lydia,
Allowing a determined (nice way of saying stubborn) child to decide between two choices you have picked is often the best way to get them to be cooperative. My youngest is also a determined child, and we do lots of choice giving.

Rose

says:

I have a metal filing cabinet in the school area, on the side are magnetic letters that I use to make words on the front of the cabinet. The words are in front of the kids each day all day long doing this. We say the words, make a sentence with each word orally usually then sometimes we have to write the words and sentences. I just got a bucket of letters so now to mix things up we play scramble up words, some will be spelling words some will not.

I have put sight words on recipe cards cut in half then on a ring, they go with us every where we go.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Rose,
Thank you for sharing this!

Nurjehan

says:

The system is so helpful, the child improved so much that the child went from -C to B+, and is reading and spelling well. The teachers were so amazed.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Nurjehan,
This is an amazing improvement! Thank you for sharing it with us.

AARmom

says:

My kids work so hard with fluency sheets that when they finish one I let them get a piece of candy from our candy jar. So they now don’t complain when they see a fluency sheet!
I also sometimes let them chew gum at the table while we do a lesson…another treat.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Great motivation ideas, AARmom! Thanks for sharing them.

roslyn harris

says:

Write the words and sentences from the fluency sheets on the white board and student gets to erase them after he reads them…reading is fun now he says…no sheets. Even though he knows he is reading the same words and sentences.

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Roslyn,
This is a great idea! I can imagine the feeling of completion when erasing the read words and sentences.

Jennifer Huffman

says:

Thanks for all of your helpful tips! We are enjoying our first year of AAR and looking forward to AAS.

Holly

says:

My children have days when they need more immediate positive reinforcement than the progress chart. On those days they might create a zoo on a blank piece of paper and have a sticker animal to add to their zoo after each word they spell correctly, which motivates them to want to fill their zoo. For my younger daughter, she gets a sticker next to each sentence or section of words on the fluency pages, and we might try to pick one that she feels relates to the sentence (a dog if the sentence has a dog in it). My children also love being the one to read the other’s spelling words for them to spell, which helps reinforce the concepts that the other student is learning and is extra reading practice.

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Holly,
Your idea for a “sticker zoo” is awesome! I can see how that would be highly motivating to a young child, and lots of fun too. Thanks for sharing this.

Alene Vienneau

says:

Spelling is very challenging for my 9yo. Every word is new to her each day. And hearing loss that she experienced when she was younger makes different vowel sounds hard to distinguish. (She no longer has hearing issues). To keep her motivated, I do a few different things. If she can’t remember how to spell a word, we find it in a book that she has read or that I have read to her to give the word some context rather than just floating on a list. We vary the way that we review words over a 5-6 day period: tiles, letter blocks that snap together, writing on whiteboard, oral spelling while jumping rope. If she comes up with an idea on what to do that day, I will often use her idea and make that the lesson. Our lessons are very short: flashcards; 5-word quiz on older words; either scripted lesson or review the 10 new words; then dictate a phrase and a sentence. Then we’re done. 15 minutes, like the lady said! After SWR (which I use with my older two girls), it seems too short, but I’m sticking to it with this kid.

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Alene,
It sounds like your are doing very well with your daughter. Some students need much more ongoing review than others in order to master spelling.

Good for you for reviewing 5 older word cards each day, in addition to reviewing the 10 cards from the step you are working on. I would have recommended you do that, if you weren’t already.

Mahmoud Sultan

says:

Very useful and constructiv

Patti

says:

We started AAR just as suggested in the manual…white board, tiles etc. Yet, as we progressed through the lessons I found that one of my boys did not enjoy the tiles so much. So, we began working right from the Teachers Manual together, and he has since gone through the lesson more rapidly, yet, thoroughly. Oftentimes the review pages are too long for one sitting, so we stop and pick it up the next day. Thanks for a great tool!!!

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Patti,
Some kids absolutely need the letter tiles, but some are like your son and find they slow them down. However, keep the tiles in mind if he ever struggles with a concept. They are great for demonstrating things that students have trouble mastering.

Stephanie

says:

We really love the charts that come with AAS. My kids LOVE being able to track their progress and see how attainable their goals truly are! ;)

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Stephanie,
Yes! Some kids find putting stickers on a chart to be wildly motivating. Others couldn’t care less about the charts, and find the bookmark being moved in the Teacher’s Manual or the growing stack of Word Cards behind the Mastered Tab motivating. You just have to find what works for your unique student.

Karen Craft

says:

I would love to try this spelling program. I enjoyed this article on motivation. I have a very difficult time motivating my last two children to study.

Andrea

says:

I would love to try all about spelling, but can’t unless I’m blessed to win it! Thanks for your giveaways. I have heard wonderful things about the program!

Anna

says:

Thank you for this and other encouraging posts. I have often felt defeated by my children’s lack of motivation and my own doubts of whether I am doing enough. Yet I have seen huge progress since we started the AAR/AAS program.

Juliann

says:

My kids are too goofy sometimes and it really draws the lessons out to where I get frustrated. I need to make sure I am not tired or hungry along with the kids or else it is negative. I also find that I love finishing a lesson because it feels like an accomplishment for me too. Something to check off the list. I hope to focus on watching them grow and enjoying that. Along with some goofy times.

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Excellent points here, Juliann! A tired or hungry (or coffee-lacking) teacher is not the best teacher.

Sometimes you can bargain with your kids on the goofiness. “Okay, you have been goofy for a while, so now it’s time to work serious for a while. Then we can will have a snack.” Or you can call a goofy break, and everyone (mom too) dances around or does silly things. Then the goofy break is over and you get serious for a short lesson before having your next goofy break.

Lastly, mom can desire that feeling of accomplishment in finishing a lesson too, and we can find ourselves trying to push “just a bit longer” to finish a lesson. I find it easier to avoid this feeling if I predetermine how many lessons I think is appropriate to finish in the upcoming week based on how things went with my student last week. At times I knew that just one lesson a week was the most reasonable plan for my daughter. Now two to two and a half lessons a week is right for her.

Anyway, I hope this helps.

Steph

says:

Great tips. I have made a concerted effort to give positive reinforcement-and to make sure my corrections are gentle. I also make it a point to show daddy our school work so the can hear me compliment their work and he can encourage them too.

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Thanks for the tip to show someone else a child’s work, so you have the opportunity to praise them in front of another adult! Great idea, Steph.

Melissa

says:

Thank you for these great tips. We really love AAR and AAS. This past semester we have noticed such positive changes in our homeschool environment and learning. THANK YOU!

Ashley

says:

Thanks for the tips!

Suzy

says:

Thank you! Is there any way to tell if your child just isn’t developmentally ready yet or if they just need to keep working at it? My son is almost 4 and he’s just not ready (he doesn’t hear individual sounds in words so doesn’t pronounce individual sounds, particularly consonants so he doesn’t pronounce any consonants, this also makes reading a ways off for him), but I’d love to have something to help him start to hear sounds and give him the exposure to pre-reading skills. He knows the letters & their sounds but in words he’s completely lost & just guesses. Would AAR help this or should we stick with just speech therapy?

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Suzy,
It sounds like your son might benefit a lot from our Pre-Reading program. Our Pre-Reading program works on the Big 5 Skills: Print Awareness, Letter Knowledge, Phonological Awareness, Listening Comprehension, and Motivation to Read. Through games and fun activities, the Pre-Reading program will help your son learn to hear and manipulate the sounds of language, giving him a solid foundation he needs in order to be ready for reading success. Besides, it’s plain old fun too!

There is a large correlation between being in speech therapy before Kindergarten and struggling to learn to read later. My middle child was in speech therapy before his third birthday and right through Kindergarten, and none of the three speech therapists he saw in that time mentioned this to me, although they all knew I homeschooled. I wish I had known so I could have been better prepared.

My son’s phonological awareness skills (being able to hear and manipulate the sounds in language) were weak and had to be explicitly and incrementally built up before he could have success in reading. However, unlike you, I didn’t learn this until my son was 7 and had already been doing a reading program for two years with no success (this was before All About Reading was published). After working on phonological awareness skills for months, his reading finally began to take off. He is now 13, reading well when assigned and even occasionally for pleasure.

Anyway, all that to say working on phonological awareness and the other Big 5 Skills now will really help your son down the line.

Renae B

says:

thank you for the reminder of how easy negative comments can slip into teaching. Also, the tip to end on a positive note.

Stacy

says:

Thank you for all of your tips. I plan on using the information that you have provided. My son is having a hard time learning how to read at school and I think that this information will make it possible for him to learn.

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Stacy,
I’m sorry your son is having a hard time. Let us know if we can help.

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