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5 Ways to Customize Reading and Spelling Instruction

Teaching a child to read and spell is not a “one size fits all” proposition. In this article, you will discover five ways to individualize instruction according to your child’s specific needs—making reading and spelling easier.

“Off-the-Rack” Curriculum Doesn’t Work for Everyone

5 Ways to Customize Reading and Spelling Instruction - All About Learning Press

Maybe your children are polar opposites. One is a natural reader and speller, but the other really struggles.

Perhaps your first child needs a fast pace. He doesn’t require much review and once he learns a reading or spelling concept, he remembers it. But your second child needs constant review to keep moving forward. She needs a mastery-based program rather than a grade-level-based one.

Does this sound familiar? You’re not alone. Many parents are in the same situation, desperately trying to make one reading or spelling curriculum work for all their kids, despite very different learning needs. In cases like these, it becomes painfully obvious that in order to effectively teach both children, you need to be able to individualize their lessons.

All About Reading and All About Spelling were developed for families just like yours! When we created our programs, one of our most important “to dos” was to make sure the curriculum was easy to customize without requiring a lot of extra effort from the teacher. Are you curious how we did it?

Five Features Make Our Programs Customizable

Right from the start, we identified five features that would help parents easily adapt reading and spelling instruction to their child’s individual needs. A huge benefit of the All About Reading and All About Spelling programs is that each of these elements is built right into the curriculum. How can your child benefit from these features? Let’s take a look!

  1. Use Scaffolding to Support Your Child’s Learning

    If you’ve never heard of scaffolding as it relates to learning, please don’t skip this section, because scaffolding is really important.

    Have you ever seen construction workers on the side of a building, perched high above the sidewalk? Scaffolding is the temporary framework that supports the workers, allowing them to work on parts of the building that they wouldn’t be able to reach otherwise.

    5 Ways to Customize Reading and Spelling Instruction - All About Learning Press

    In the learning process, scaffolding works in a similar way. Scaffolding creates the structure that allows children to gradually build toward higher levels of understanding and greater levels of independence in the learning process. Every child’s learning scaffolding is built to meet his or her individual needs…never too high and never too fast.

    In All About Reading, scaffolding is provided in every lesson. For example:

    Here are examples of how scaffolding is used in All About Spelling:

    • We use letter tiles to practice the spelling rules.
    • We use controlled word lists at first, and then mix up the various concepts.
    • Dictation sentences contain only the words that have been previously taught.
    • Only one concept is taught per lesson so your child can really focus on one concept at a time.

    Then, just as scaffolding is eventually removed from a building, we gradually fade out this extra support until your student reaches the point where he no longer needs it.

  2. Customize with a Multisensory Approach Multisensory Teaching for Reading and Spelling

    When you teach with a multisensory approach, you aren’t “stuck” with just one way of teaching something. In a multisensory approach, every concept is taught through all three major pathways to the brain (sight, sound, and touch).

    Interestingly, when children are taught using all three pathways to the brain—visual, auditory, and kinesthetic—they learn more than when they are taught through just one pathway.1 The more senses we involve, the more learning occurs. The best way to teach is to involve multiple pathways to the brain rather than target just one pathway.

    You can learn more about our multisensory approach here.

    Now let’s look at another great way to customize your child’s reading and spelling lessons.

  3. Adapt “Review Time” to Your Child’s Needs

    Review is another big area where you can customize your child’s instruction. Some kids need more review for information to stick, while others need much less. All About Reading and All About Spelling have seven review strategies built right into the lessons, and every one of them can be tailored to your child’s needs.

    You can read about the seven ways we review to help information stick, but as an example, here is a quick demo showing how the Reading Review Box is used to customize your child’s review.

  4. Tailor Instruction with Motivating Activities

    Your child doesn’t need to be “bookish” to enjoy learning with our programs. The wide range of activities is motivating for many kids, making it easy to grab your child’s attention. Whether your child is an animal lover, digs race cars, or is into pirate stories and activities, there is something for everyone.

    You can use your child’s unique interests to easily expand on the lessons, too! (“Let’s take out more lizard books from the library!” or “Let’s play that race car game again tomorrow with a different set of words!”)

  5. Adopt a Pace that Works for Your Child

    Does your child need a faster pace? No problem! Or do you need to slow down? You can do that, too!

    Since our programs are mastery-based instead of grade-level-based, you are free to introduce new material at whatever pace is best for your child. Anna Gillingham, one of the founders of the Orton-Gillingham approach, put it this way: “Go as fast as you can, but as slow as you must.”

  6. Your Child Can Shine with Individualized Lessons!

    And that’s what it’s all about! Every child is different, and your curriculum should make it easy for you to meet your children’s individual learning needs…no matter how different they are!

    How has homeschooling allowed you to individualize your child’s lessons? Please share in the comments below!

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Linda

says:

Very interested & great information! I have yet to find the perfect fit for my third grader & so still looking and learning. So much good information here and love the idea of a customizable curriculum. My son is an excellent reader, but spelling is coming much slower. Would love to bridge that gap!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Linda,
Students doing well with reading but struggling with spelling is a rather common occurrence! It is the main reason Why We Teach Reading and Spelling Separately. Students can focus on each subject separately and learn at their own pace in each.

Olymtmom

says:

I really like how the program builds on itself and incorporates three senses to reinforce learning. My son is towards the end of level 2 of the reading program and I’m very pleased with his progress. After the summer break, I am reviewing a few of the concepts before proceeding on to the next lesson as we did not finish level 2 at the end of the school year. I find it easier to teach going forward if we remember the spelling rules that are presented throughout the material.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Such a great approach! Yes, review is very important for success, especially after a long break.

Amanda W

says:

This is great advice for families!

Jess Thompson

says:

Thank you for the ideas on how to meet each child’s needs! It truly helps me to get a game plan.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome, Jess. I’m glad this is helpful for you.

April Justis

says:

Your posts are always so helpful!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Awww, thank you, April! I’m pleased to hear you find them helpful.

Kim C

says:

Good tips. Thank you

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome, Kim.

Cassie

says:

Interested in trying this approach with my 4th grader as we turn to homeschooling. GREAT tools!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Great, Cassie! Let me know if you have questions or need help with placement or anything else.

Brittany

says:

These are great tips that I can use with my dyslexic daughter! Thanks!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Glad you’ll find these helpful, Brittany! You’re welcome.

Joanna

says:

Thank you for all your helpful tips

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome, Joanna.

Jennifer

says:

The idea of customizable lessons is great! Each of my kids have had different learning styles. I like the ability to change things up as needed.

Katie Dorey

says:

At what age do you typically start spelling lessons?

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Great question, Katie!

Our recommendation for starting spelling has less to do with the child’s age are more to do with the child’s ability with reading. We recommend starting spelling when a child has mastered reading on a beginning level, so when a student has completed All About Reading level 1 or the equivalent reading level.

The Right Time to Start Spelling Instruction article has more details about this, as well as some considerations that may lead someone to start spelling sooner or later.

Please let me know if you have specific questions about your child starting spelling or anything else.

Sarah

says:

I didn’t review enough during our first year of homeschooling. We ended up reviewing a lot last year. I can see a difference in retention and confidence!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Yes, such a great point, Sarah. Reviewing is so important for getting learning to stay in a student’s long-term memory. We discuss the importance of reviewing in our How to Make Reading and Spelling “Stick” blog post.

Frosta Karnes

says:

Great tips Thank you

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome, Frosta. Glad you liked them.

Robin Sweat

says:

I’m looking forward to trying this curriculum. I have a 5 year old who is struggling with learning to read and showing many signs of dyslexia. I’m hoping that AAR will be the perfect fit for him.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Do you have any questions or need help with placement or anything, Robin? I’m happy to help.

Here are a few links you may find informative:
All About Reading (scroll down a bit for a great overview video)
Dyslexia Resources page
10 Tips for Reaching Your Struggling Learner

Rita Klassen

says:

Absolutely! I am so glad that I have paid close attention to how my children learn best and worked that into our homeschool curriculum. It has been a life-saver (and money-saver), especially since they are complete opposites. I have had to be flexible and try some out-of-the-box ideas, but it is paying off.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Great to hear, Rita! I love that you point out that learning to customize for each child can be a money-saver as well.

Jennifer M.

says:

Although I am new to homeschooling, I researched extensively looking for the program to help my daughter not struggle anymore in reading and spelling. I am so glad that I found this program (along with many positive reviews). I am so excited to begin building the foundation my daughter is missing and watch her grow in her reading skills.

Tonya Baker

says:

This is such a great way to get started

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you, Tonya!

Gina

says:

What do you recommend for kids after they complete level 4 AAR? I don’t want him to stop working on reading skills but don’t know where to look for the next level since AAR ends in level 4.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Check out our What Happens after All About Reading? article, Gina. It has lots of ideas on what to do next. We also recommend completing the All About Spelling program as it supports reading.

After reading over that article, let me know if you have further questions or concerns.

Christina

says:

I have heard this program transitions well into the “Phonetic Zoo” which has three levels- might be worth checking into.:)

Amy Lawson

says:

I love using AAR! We’ll be starting AAS along with AAR2 this year. I can’t wait to see how my youngest does with AAR1! I think I’ll need to perhaps go a little slower with her, but I love how easy it is to do that with this program. My oldest flew until lesson 24 in AAR1. As soon as she finished level 1, she was already talking about and didn’t want to wait for level 2! Ziggy is very well loved here too!!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

So wonderful to hear, Amy! I love that your child was so eager to get into AAR 2 after finishing AAR 1!

Jelly

says:

I’m working through book one and my son has just run stuck. He can repeat back to me the rules on the blue cards, and he can build them with the tiles, but when it comes time to write them there’s just a disconnect. He’s 11 and a little sensitive about his spelling, but I’m not sure how to further reinforce the concepts to make them transfer over to his writing so we can move on to 2 syllable words? Even more so to find a way to do it that will engage him. Any suggestions?

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Jelly,
I’m sorry your son is having problems with this.

Take a look at our blog post on Dysgraphia: How can I help my child?? See if the ideas there will help.

Since he can spell the words correctly with tiles, consider moving on with spelling with tiles to harder words. But at the same time, go back in spelling to where he was having success with writing words. Then very slowly move forward, keeping to a bit of challenge but where he can be successful. This way you can separate his learning new material from his difficulties with writing.

Let me know what you think about the blog post.

Elizabeth

says:

My son is struggling with reading and writing he has failed his grade 7, he has lost confidence and hope in himself but as a mother I try at all means to encourage him. I need help please how can I improve my son from reading and writing.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Elizabeth,
I am so sorry to hear your son is struggling with reading and writing.

When older students like your son struggle like this, it is almost always because they are missing foundational skills. For example, a student may struggle with reading because he doesn’t know all the phonograms and sounds letters make and therefore cannot sound out unfamiliar words. There could be other reasons too.

You can use our placement tests to determine which level your son should start with to fill in the foundational gaps he may have. When you look over the placement tests, ensure that he can read the sample stories smoothly and fluently before choosing that level. He may need to start at a low level, but All About Reading is designed to be used at each student’s unique pace, so he will be able to move through the levels as fast as he can as long as he is mastering the material.

Also take a look at our Using All About Spelling with Older Students blog post. Studying spelling well build up his writing skills, as well as reinforce his reading.

I hope this helps. Please let me know if you need additional information or have questions.

Jami

says:

I started your spelling program after years of drill and kill with the word lists that came home from school each week. We were to the point that he measured “at risk” for anxiety problems and we were able to spend little time on any work other than spelling. We have worked with All About Spelling for 20 minutes a day 6 days a week this summer and are all feeling great about the progress. Anxiety levels for us all seem way down, like finding the program was a big sigh of relief. The best news is I will be able to continue this program through the school year so that he may actually get to learn spelling! Thank you for a program that works for my son!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Oh, Jami! I’m so sorry spelling was such a cause of anxiety for your son and family, but I am so happy to hear that All About Spelling is helping to wash that anxiety away. And I’m excited to hear that he will be able to continue with it during the school year! It’s great that he is finally having some success with spelling! Thank you so much for sharing this.

Karen Smith

says:

Remembering that we do need to be mindful that children with auditory processing challenges may nevertheless struggle with spelling and handwriting.

Lisa

says:

I love the “mastery-based” approach. It is the way all spelling should be taught.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I agree, Lisa! ?

Carol Barno

says:

Awesome real strategy!! Why doesn’t everyone do this!!

Alicia

says:

I have not used this program yet, but I do homeschool. I like that I can adjust to my children’s learning pace and style without them being teased by their peers. I also know that they are getting the one-on-one they need.

Bethany Sullivan

says:

I have a quick question. I just received the Reading level 2 materials. While previewing them in preparation to teach, I noticed that my set of Reading Syllable Tags do not have words printed on the back, and apparently they are supposed to, per page 23 of teacher manual: “Stick two magnets on the back of each syllable tag. Note that the magnets go on the side with the word on it, not the picture.” Is it okay that mine do not have whatever words they are supposed to have? Thank you.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Bethany,
We had a small batch of the syllable tags not come with the names printed on the back. As the magnets go over the words, that shouldn’t be a problem. The words are just to help the teacher know the name of each syllable type, but this is also covered in the Teacher’s Manual.

Tina

says:

My son didn’t seem to retain anything I taught him until we used AAR. After a few years with the program, he picks it up faster and faster as we go along. He’s kinistethic mostly, but enjoys the variety. Had Not heard of scaffolding until now.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Tina,
I have experienced the same thing with a child needing to go very slow with AAR in the beginning but slowly becoming faster and faster as she mastered the material. It seems that success in learning builds children’s abilities to learn more easily.

Sandy

says:

Great ideas. After having 5 kids who just picked up on reading I was surprised when it was not clicking with my youngest. All About Reading has been just what he needed. He is now on level 3!

Renae

says:

Very helpful information. I’m having a hard time helping my son. We are at the end of his first grade year and he is still struggling. I feel as though I am failing him somehow. I’m looking forward to getting more information on the site.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Renae,
I’m so sorry your son is struggling. Please don’t blame yourself, however. Approximately 34% of children struggle to learn to read and spell English.

Here are some ways that All About Reading can help kids that struggle with learning:

– Each lesson time is simple and explicit, and will include 3 simple steps: review of what was learned the day before, a simple new teaching, and a short practice of that new teaching.

– Incremental lessons. AAR breaks every teaching down into its most basic steps and then teaches the lessons in a logical order, carrying the students from one concept or skill to the next. Each step builds on the one the student has already mastered.

– AAR is multisensory. Research has shown that when a child is taught through all three pathways at the same time, a method known as simultaneous multisensory instruction, he will learn significantly more than when taught only through his strongest pathway.

– AAR uses specially color-coded letter tiles. Working with the All About Reading letter tiles can make the difference between understanding or not understanding a concept.

– AAR is scripted, so you can concentrate on your child. The script is very clear, without excess verbiage.

– AAR has built-in review in every lesson. Children that struggle generally need lots of review in order to retain concepts. With AAR, your child will have a Reading Review Box so you can customize the review. This way, you can concentrate on just the things that your child needs help with, with no time wasted on reviewing things that your child already knows.

– AAR has lots of fluency practice. One of the things that Marie noticed when she was researching reading programs is that few programs have enough review built in for kids who struggle to gain fluency. AAR has fluency sheets or a story to be read with every lesson, so children can practice reading smoothly with expression and confidence.

All About Reading has a one-year guarantee. You can try it, and if for any reason you feel that it isn’t the right match for your child, return it for a full refund.

I hope this helps! Please let me know if you have additional questions.

Julie

says:

Thanks! These are great suggestions as I have 2 kids that learn in different ways.