Automaticity is the ability to do something without conscious thought.
For example, as you read this post, you probably aren’t consciously thinking about how to decode every word. You’ve reached automaticity in reading, which helps you pay attention to the content.
It’s similar to when you fry eggs for breakfast. You don’t have to think about each step, like how to crack the egg or flip it with a spatula. You can carry on a conversation with your kids as you turn on the stove and start cooking the eggs. Your mind is freed up for other tasks because you’ve reached the point of automaticity. And that’s what you want for your child.
In reading, you want your child to be able to decode words effortlessly and rapidly, to make the shift from “learning to read” to “reading to learn.” Automaticity makes that shift possible.
And in spelling, you want your child to be able to write words correctly in various situations, not just on a dictated spelling list. Ideally, spelling becomes easy and doesn’t require much conscious thought. This allows your child to communicate in writing without difficulty.
Automaticity is one of the main goals in All About Reading and All About Spelling, and every lesson brings your child closer to that goal. Since a child may need to encounter a word thirty times or more before achieving instant recall, we provide lots of practice. The word banks, decodable stories, spelling dictations, and hands-on activities all provide engaging practice in a vast variety of ways.
You know that automaticity is the goal, but it can be difficult to maintain patience and understanding as your child works to develop automaticity! The tips below can help you and your child get through this stage.
Sometimes just changing your expectations can take the frustration out of a situation. When things are difficult for your child, take a step back and consider what information might help him. Be patient.
Think about taking a teenager out driving for the first time. If you neglect to tell him that the car will move without the accelerator being pressed or that the brake pedal needs only a light touch, you might have a bit of an uncomfortable ride—or worse!
Giving explicit, step-by-step instruction doesn’t always come naturally, but little tidbits of information help set up a student for success. An activity or subject can seem scary when those tidbits are missing!
Don’t expect perfection. Instead, begin to teach your child to recognize and correct his own mistakes. For example, during spelling dictation exercises or reading fluency practice, you might say, “You made one mistake. Can you find it?” Children can often find their mistakes upon re-reading a phrase or sentence. Praise your child for any mistakes found or corrected.
Achieving automaticity is not automatic; it requires regular practice and review. That’s why we’ve built review into every All About Reading and All About Spelling lesson. But if more review is needed, there are lots of ways to provide additional practice without discouraging your child. Remember that learning to read and spell is hard work, so keep review time short and sweet!
Here are a few ideas:
As tempting as it may be, don’t try to teach too many things at once. When you pour too much information into your child’s “funnel,” it becomes difficult for him to retain what he has learned. If your child is struggling with reading, hold off on spelling lessons for a time. And don’t spend too long on reading and spelling lessons. Keep lesson time short—twenty minutes tops!
It’s really no wonder that many children make mistakes as they are learning to read and spell. They are novices who need lots of encouragement, patience, and practice. Remember, you didn’t always know how to fry eggs or drive a car! With time and practice, your child will achieve automaticity in reading and spelling, too.
Do you ever get frustrated while you wait for your child to achieve automaticity in a skill? Leave a comment below and download our free report for more tips!