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How to Make Reading and Spelling “Stick”

make reading and spelling stick frog on a skateboard

Have you ever taught your child something one day, only to have him completely forget it the next? That is one of the most frustrating things as a teacher, isn’t it? One of your main goals is to make reading and spelling “stick” in your child’s brain, and this blog post will give you solid techniques for doing just that.

Short-Term vs. Long-Term Memory

This will be quick, but it is important to understand the basic differences between short-term and long-term memory.

Short-term memory is a system for temporarily storing, managing, and recalling the information necessary to carry out particular tasks. It keeps track of things like where you parked your car an hour ago or what you plan on having for dinner tonight. For your kids, facts stored in short-term memory might include the spelling for the word stationery or the new grammar rule they learned this morning.

Long-term memory, on the other hand, is a system for permanently storing, managing, and retrieving information for later use. Long-term memory helps us remember and recall things like proper spelling, punctuation rules, and vocabulary words. Items of information stored as long-term memory may be available for a lifetime. And that is what you want for your child—permanently ingrained learning.

Why Review Matters

If you want to make learning stick, you must include review in your lessons.

Parents and teachers often lament, “I taught this same information to Joey last month, and now he’s forgotten it.” They wonder what is wrong. They don’t realize that presenting the material once or twice isn’t enough. It’s not their fault—they just honestly don’t know how critically important it is to review. Review is an area that isn’t stressed nearly enough by educators or curriculum developers.

But the truth is, to make sure that your child really knows the material, you must have consistent and direct review. You can’t leave it up to chance and hope that your teaching will stick in his brain. As his teacher, you must take responsibility and ensure that your child remembers important information.

A Plan to Make Reading and Spelling Stick

Without a plan, you are probably settling for short-term learning without even realizing it. Short-term learning is damaging for several reasons. Not only is it a waste of time, but it also sets up a cycle of intense frustration for both you and your child.

Frustrated child looking down at paper

When your child forgets a lesson soon after you present it, you feel like you are spinning your wheels and not getting anywhere. You might even begin to wonder if your child has a learning disability. But even worse than that, when he can’t remember his lessons, your child probably feels like something is wrong with him. Depending on his personality, he may internalize the frustration or he may act out. Either way, it becomes harder for both of you to sit through lessons that you know aren’t going to stick.

There is a way out of this no-win situation, though.

7 Review Strategies in AAR and AAS

Seven important review strategies are built right into the All About Reading and All About Spelling programs.

  1. First, we make sure your child understands the main point of the lesson.

    Your child doesn’t need to guess—it’s crystal clear what the goal of the lesson is. For example, when your child is learning how to add suffixes to base words, he’ll learn what suffixes and base words are, and the difference between consonant suffixes and vowel suffixes. Using letter tiles and suffix tiles (and our clear, scripted lesson plans), you’ll demonstrate exactly how to add suffixes to words. We test and polish the wording of every lesson to make sure that the teaching is understandable. After all, the lesson must be understood before it can be reviewed.

  2. Child building words with letter tiles
  3. Next, review is built right into the lessons.

    At the beginning of every lesson, we prompt you to do a quick review of previously taught material. The built-in review ensures that you remember to do it and won’t be tempted to skip over it.

  4. Multisensory methods are used during review time.

    Since children learn best using sight, sound, and touch, it’s important to use a variety of methods to review material. You’ll review reading and spelling concepts in multiple ways: with word analysis activities, flashcards, recitation, games, and practical applications like problem-solving, dictation, writing, and conversation. And we use the SMI method (Simultaneous Multisensory Instruction) for even more powerful review sessions.

  5. Child using fly swatter game to review phonogram cards
  6. Review is more frequent when a new concept is first taught.

    Timing is important. If you teach a new idea, but then don’t revisit it for a while, the chances that your child will forget it are much greater. That’s why we make sure that new material is reviewed daily at first. We keep it interesting with a variety of techniques like the Review Box, Fluency Practice sheets, Word Banks, and activity sheets. As your child shows mastery, we review less frequently, making room for other new concepts. Revisiting information this way pushes it into long-term memory and keeps it there.

    Young boy reading words off fluency sheet

    It’s also important to note that sometimes it appears that your student understands a concept when you first demonstrate it, but it may not be burned into long-term memory—so we don’t stop the review too soon. You want your child to be able to access the information years from now, not just a week from now, so concepts are reviewed at intervals and continued until the material has been completely mastered.

  7. Certain concepts are reviewed using the same words until they are completely mastered.

    For example, when learning a spelling rule, we use the same wording each time we review it: C says /s/ before e, i, or y. Let that wording get ingrained in your child’s long-term memory so he can access it later when needed.

  8. Review Key Card with spelling rule question
  9. Review is customized for each child.

    Review is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor. Your child may need more or less review on a specific topic than the next child. If a concept has been mastered, you file it behind the “Mastered” divider in the Review Box and move on. If more practice is needed, you file it behind the “Review” divider. The system is as simple as can be, yet very powerful for making learning stick.

  10. Review box with cards and dividers
  11. Concepts are never “retired.”

    We don’t just “teach it and forget it.” After we introduce a new concept, the lessons have your child apply his new knowledge to keep it fresh in his mind. Your student will use spelling words in dictation activities and encounter reading words in activities and short stories.

These review strategies are seamlessly woven into the entire reading and spelling programs. You don’t have to consciously remember to do them because they are built right into the curriculum. You can sit back, relax, and enjoy watching your child make consistent progress!

Additional Help for Your Child’s Memory

Download my free e-book, “Help Your Child’s Memory,” to learn more techniques to help strengthen your child’s memory and achieve learning that really sticks.

Pages from "Help Your Child's Memory" e-book

In this e-book, you will discover…

  • Why information goes right over your child’s head … and what to do about it
  • How the “Funnel Concept” can improve your teaching and result in long-term learning
  • Schemas—what they are and how they help improve memory
  • What “Simultaneous Multisensory Instruction” is, and why it is such a powerful teaching method
  • Six things you can do today to improve your child’s working memory

Do you have a favorite review activity you enjoy using with your children? Share in the comments below!

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Steffi S.

says:

We recently made a simple card game for reviewing middle vowel sounds. Just getting started on our learning to read and spell journey.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Games are a great way to make reviewing fun and help learning stick, Steffi!

Tania

says:

I really enjoyed reading this article and Others. Insightful and encouraging. Thank you also for the free ebooks to compliment the strategy for building in short and long term memory.
My daughter is epileptic and dyslexic, so all tips and tricks that help support her are of high value to us. Thank you Most sincerely. We are
Looking forward to implementing in our homeschool classroom.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I’m glad you found this article and others on our blog helpful for your daughter, Tania!

If you ever have any questions or need anything, please let us know.

Andi

says:

I like #7; basically, never teach material in isolation. All learning should overlap whether it’s science and language or math and music. And never do an activity just to do it, combine it or present it in a way that 2 or 3 subjects are incorporated to give it meaning and get the most bang for your buck (time).

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Andi, yes! Making connections is a very important part of making learning stick. We even have a blog post about it, How Making Connections Helps Your Child’s Memory.

Cheryl

says:

Interesting stuff. Thanks.

Shannon Alexander

says:

I think that is my problem-I don’t really have a plan. I don’t review like I need to.

Elaina

says:

Looking forward to starting AAS soon! Love the review reminders through these programs!

Joanna

says:

Great reminder of how important reviewing is! I admit I can find it tiresome sometimes, but it’s so necessary!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Joanna,
Yes, reviewing can be tiresome. That’s why we recommend using games and activities for reviewing to make it more fun and even something to look forward to. We have lots of review ideas on our blog. Take a look at 12 Great Ways to Review Reading Word Cards, 10 Great Ways to Review Spelling Word Cards, and How to Teach Phonograms (which includes four printable games for reviewing phonograms.)

Lauren

says:

Very helpful article! I can’t wait to implement all the new things I’ve learned!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I’m glad you found this helpful, Lauren!

Annika F.

says:

This is incredibly helpful! I find myself guilty of not doing enough review with my kiddo!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I’m glad you find this helpful, Annika. If you have questions or need anything, please let me know.

Zanele

says:

Thank you . Very helpful.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome, Zanele. I’m glad it was helpful for you.

April

says:

Great article!

Myra

says:

It’s important to use multi sensory methods to review.

MaryAnn

says:

Thanks for the resource. This is a great article.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome, MaryAnn! Glad you like it.

Sarah

says:

My daughter needs the review for spelling. I can’t believe how much we lost this summer. And that’s with us working on it a couple of times a week. Thanks AAS!

Joy Eason

says:

How do I disincentivize guessing at words?

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Joy,
I found asking the student to read aloud to me daily and requiring them to reread a word if they guess and then reread the sentence the word was in (so that it made sense) helped them to be more willing to sound out a word from the first instead of guessing. I would also make a note of every word that was guessed at and review it at the beginning of the next day’s reading time. I found these things helped my student see that I felt reading each word correctly was very important.

I also provided rewards when they didn’t guess. First, just praise. “Oh, I’m glad you sounded that word out! Good work.” That alone motivates. Then if I was asking them to read aloud for 20 minutes but they hadn’t guessed at any words after 10 minutes, I would just say, “You know what? You read all that without guessing at all! We can stop for the day.” Ending early was super motivating for me kids. But I’m sure you could find other rewards your student would like.

Does this help? Let me know if you need additional ideas. However, I do think that my student just knowing that it was important enough to me to spend so much time on it made them more willing to sound out instead of guess, although it took a while to really break the habit.

Sarah M.

says:

Thanks so much for the free resource!

Halie Irizarry

says:

We’ve been loving All About Reading so far! My son is remembering what he has learned more than any other program we’ve tried. He loves the games and activity sheets!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

This is wonderful, Halie! Keep up the great work. 😊

Alena

says:

Love all the wonderful resources and helpful items! Thank you!!

Karla

says:

I have noticed a positive difference when I review with my kiddos. I’m always amazed how much more they can actually remember when we review even if it’s been a few days between a lesson. That’s something i appreciate about AAR—all the review that is built into this program.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Yes, great point, Karla! Review makes a great difference for really helping learning to become mastering.

Sara Pimentel

says:

Thank you for this article. My daughter is dyslexic and also struggles a lot with memory. I’m definitely going to be downloading this ebook on helping her memory.

Karina Townsend

says:

I absolutely love this curriculum! It has made teaching my kids to read and spell so much fun and a bonding moment!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

What a touching comment, Karina. I love that All About Reading and All About Spelling can help bring families closer together!

Jill L

says:

We started my 5 year old on a very popular 100 lessons open and close book. He had the desire to read, but this was way to dry for him. We switched to All About Reading Level 1 and he is soaring through it with delight! So thankful for this engaging, straightforward curriculum!

Lorna Noack

says:

Very helpful explanation of importance of review

Jennifer C

says:

I love incorporating games as a review method. Even better if my child doesn’t even realize we are “reviewing.”

Jen

says:

Thank you for the E book!!! I am looking forward to reading it!

I just ordered your program, so I have not yet tried it out. This review process is what drew me to your program. I am confident it will be a good fit for my 6 year old!

Laura E

says:

My son is doing great with AAR! He struggled with another program but once we switched to AAR he improved so quickly. Now my youngest is doing the pre-reading program and really enjoying it. Thank you for all the great resources!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You are so welcome, Laura! It’s wonderful to hear just how well your son is doing with All About Reading.

Melinda Graf

says:

Great reminders. We are jumping back in after summer break and need extra review right now!

Heidi

says:

This is great. Sometimes we forget to put things into long-term memory.

Theresa Ortega

says:

Thank you. We are starting AAR level 1. Good points to keep in mind.

Carrie

says:

AAR is such a wonderful program. We just started with my 5 year old and my 7 year old dyslexic son and they both have been loving it! The tips and advice have been invaluable. Thank you for this amazing program!

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