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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.

Every child is unique. Consider for a moment all the things that make children different from each other. Does your child learn quickly? Or does he have special learning challenges? Does he have a limited attention span? Does he need more (or less) review to help concepts “stick”?

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

Growing up, my kids were polar opposites.

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

My daughter was a natural reader and speller, while my son really struggled. Early on, it became obvious that in order to effectively teach them both, I would need to individualize their lessons.

My daughter, Megan, needed a fast pace. She didn’t require much review; once she learned a reading or spelling concept, she remembered it.

My son, Scotty, on the other hand, needed something that worked with his logical, analytical brain. When it came to learning to read and spell, he needed lots of review. He needed a mastery-based program instead of a grade-level-based one. And to reach the next level, he needed “scaffolding.” (Don’t panic! If you’re not sure what scaffolding is, keep reading!)

To top it all off, Megan was a visual learner, while Scotty needed input through all of his senses. When I said they were polar opposites, I wasn’t kidding! And many of you are in the same boat that I was in…desperately trying to make your reading and spelling curriculum work for all your children, despite their very different learning needs.

But I’m a problem solver by nature, so I decided to meet this challenge head on.

When I developed All About Reading and All About Spelling, I turned my “wish list” into a “to do” list. One of my main “to dos” was to make sure that the curriculum was easy to customize without requiring a lot of extra effort from the teacher. So how did I do that?

Five Features Make Our Programs Customizable

Before I began developing the curriculum, I 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.

  1. “Scaffolding” to reach the next level
  2. A multisensory approach
  3. Customized review
  4. Motivating activities
  5. Adjustable pace

How can your child benefit from these features? Let’s take a look!

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.

Customize with a Multisensory Approach

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

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

The pie chart shows a rough breakdown of how many kids are visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learners.

If your child learns best by doing, he’s a kinesthetic learner and will benefit from extra hands-on work with the letter tiles. If he learns best by seeing, he’s a visual learner and will get a lot out of seeing you demonstrate how to divide words into syllables. And if he learns best by hearing, he’s an auditory learner and will benefit from hearing you demonstrate things, such as how to read character dialogue.

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.

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.

Now let’s move on to the fourth feature that makes AAR and AAS customizable.

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!”)

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.”

Your Child Can Shine with Individualized Lessons!

And to me, that’s what it’s all about! Every child is different, and I believe that curriculum should make your job easier as you meet your child’s individual needs.

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

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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.

L R

says:

Eager to customize!

Shannon Houchins

says:

The ability of this program to be adjusted like this has been SO helpful for my son!

Candice Whetzel

says:

My oldest is a great reader but can not spell at all. My youngest has absolutely no interest in learning to read.

Kerri

says:

brilliant!!!

Whitney

says:

We are just finishing up the pre-reading level with our 5 and 3 year old. We loved it! It was easy to customize to each of their needs and gave them a great foundation to build upon.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Whitney,
I love the Pre-reading level! It’s such a fun and easy way to give children a great foundation of skills necessary for reading success. I’m happy to hear your family has loved it as well.

Debby Witmer

says:

All about spelling was a huge blessing for my two struggling spellers. It helped them decode and make sense of everything. Great curriculum!

Pam

says:

This is such a great program!

Noni

says:

This information is very helpful and this program looks like it would definitely be useful.

Aimee Budd

says:

Would be helpful.

Heather

says:

I just learned of AAS. Although my daughter is a great reader, she struggles with spelling. I’m very optimistic about this program helping her!

Erin

says:

We are wrapping up the AAR Level 1and AAS Level 1 programs and love them! They are well scaffolded and easy to use.

Melodie

says:

I need this for my kids!

Monique B

says:

Yes! I love that AAS teaches using multiple learning styles.

Elizabeth Wallace

says:

This is what I have found with my kids. All about reading is really motivating my son

Julia V. Hilts

says:

Helpful article. Thanks!

Crystal

says:

My son and I just love All About Reading! We are currently working through level 2 and I am amazed at how masterfully complex yet simple the teachings are. Just brilliant! We enjoy all of the activities and the way that they tie into each individual story. I feel like I’m learning right along side him. I love all of the interesting facts and life skills that this program teaches. I really can’t say enough about how wonderful this program is. There’s nothing like seeing your child read for the first time… thank you AAR!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Crystal,
Thank you!

Chris Flavin

says:

My oldest son loves the spelling tiles, the kinesthetic reinforcement helps a great deal with reinforcing the other elements of the program. We love it.

It’s so wonderful how your curriculum fit all types of learners.

Elizabeth

says:

My middle child did not succeed with any spelling program before AAS. We’re on Level 5, and he knows the spelling rules!

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