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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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Aimee

says:

Thanks for the tips!

Karen Uschold

says:

I teach children with learning disabilities. Over the years I have tried many multisensory spelling programs. All about Spelling is in my opinion the best!!!!! My students love it!
Thank you for making spelling easy for all students.
Karen Uschold

Paula

says:

Homeschooling has allowed me to follow my daughters strengths, needs and interests to develop a program which is individualised and relevant to her learning needs.

Heather

says:

I have two very different learners so this is so important!

El

says:

This is great as it will help my child with dyslexia.

Elizabeth

says:

My daughter is a kinesthetic learner, so I individualize her lessons by involving movement, having her spell words while jumping on the bed, for example. :)

Jeanine

says:

Homeschooling has let me teach my children at a rate that is comfortable for them instead of making them conform to a class pace. But it has also let me work around my sons weaknesses to let him excel in his strengths instead of allowing those weaknesses to hold him back. And it has helped me to stay very aware of what he is working on and integrate it into everyday life. Sometimes my kids feel like they have had a short day of school; little do they know, they are in school all day.

Kelly Lovar

says:

My daughter has been slow to read, so I shut the phonics workbooks and put the readers back on the shelf. I began to look for something else. I believe I have found it in AAS and AAR! I will be using your approach next year; I am so excited about it! In the meantime, we have used some AAR printable activities, and I have taken our school time to instill a love of reading and writing just by spending time together with no pressure, but lots of books. Having used the printable AAR activities, I already see improvement! Therefore, to help my struggling spellers who are a bit older, I can’t wait to start AAS over the summer. Individualized instruction is the way to go.

Olivia

says:

My daughter has moved quickly through the lessons. My son started out very slow and needed me to break down the lessons in to small manageable chunks. However, as he has progressed, we have been able to quicken our pace. It is nice to know that we can slow down whenever we encounter something that he has troubles with. I like that there are not as many lessons as there are school weeks so that I do not feel pressure to complete a lesson per week. Sometimes he finishes one per week and others take longer.
Thanks for your program. We love it!

Stephanie

says:

Homeschooling offers sooooo much freedom-we get to use our time however we choose and every moment is a learning opportunity-it’s not confined to the classroom.

Tracy

says:

My daughter needs frequent physical outlets, and homeschooling makes that possible!

Mabel

says:

Will surely use AAR and AAS for my son

peggy brindisi

says:

Homeschooling has brought my family together. I can teach my kids in their own way of learning. This is what I like about AAS.

KelLee

says:

I too have opposite learners. I have adapted the other subjects but never thought to apply that to spelling! With your articles I now know it is necessary to modify my spelling lessons and I am so thankful you have done the foot work for me. Thank you for your wonderful blog and your products. Can’t wait to apply what you have taught me.

Ramona Ann Oertel

says:

My grandson has Aspberger’s and struggles with spelling. These programs would be great for him.

Heather

says:

We love AAS! Homeschooling allows us to choose any level for each subject and my son is thriving! He actually gets excited for spelling!

Holly

says:

I am just finishing up using our first year of homeschooling and AAR and AAS. I have two daughters in grades 2 and 3. One daughter is very quick and precocious and this curriculum challenges her and is fun at the same time. My other daughter is very intelligent, but was getting “lost” in her traditional school in the years before because of her dyslexia and ADHD. These are perfect for her and she is doing very well! The brightly colored tiles keep her attention and assist in memory, and the fact she can talk aloud while building the words with the tiles is so beneficial to her learning style. We will be ordering level 3 to begin next year!

TaraSD

says:

I have two very different boys and both have been flying through your programme. I love it :)

Jodi

says:

This would be great for my daughter! Thank you!

meagan vdm

says:

Homeschooling has been great with aas. I love the mastery approach.

~allison

says:

Each of our children has been able to learn at their own pace and in their own way by homeschooling. Some of them learn in similar ways, but others are completely different learners. We have adjusted schedules (one week of a subject each day instead of all subjects each day,) we have used lapbooks and file folders, novels and workbooks all depending on the child. Homeschooling has allowed us to individualize to meet each child’s needs.

Amy

says:

This is a great post! Like most people (I’m guessing) I have children with opposite styles. My son is very analytical and my daughter is very artsy. We are just starting out, but I’m seeing already that the way I approach things is going to have to be different! We have been enjoying AAS 1. My son plows right through, but I need to take more time with my daughter on each lesson. Not a problem though, it’s just the individualization you are talking about!

melanie m

says:

My daughter would do look benefit from this set….hope she wins!

Fannie Miller

says:

This would be very helpful.

volleysoft

says:

Spelling came easy for me, so when I realized it didn’t for some of my children, I was surprised to say the least. I’m ready to attack this problem with a new weapon!

JB

says:

AAR and AAS have helped us move up to where we “should be” with those subjects. My kids love it!

Katie

says:

I have two boys, my oldest is on the autism spectrum and struggles with handwriting and spelling. He has a great memory but somehow it is lost when trying to remember how to write the words. I can just tell by the way that the letter tiles are done that this is going to be very different. I plan to help him with the writing aspect by providing a personal magnetic white board and allowing him to form the words he needs with the tiles and then using the dry erase to copy the words giving him a way to write it out. My other son is only 6 and he struggles with spelling simply because he is not yet capable of memorizing word lists and then copying them down. That kind of learning never works in our house.

Jane

says:

I have yet to find a spelling curriculum that I really like. It would be great to try something that can be individualized for my sons.

Kelly Griffin

says:

We just finished Level 1 and are looking forward to starting Level 2.

Madonna

says:

My son is an advance reader, so we were able to teach him reading at his level not based on his age or grade.

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