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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!

make reading and spelling stick pinterest graphic
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Leave a Comment

Mahboobeh

says:

Hi.there are lots of helpful ideas. Thank you.

Donald Errol Knight

says:

Great! Very useful.

Teresa

says:

Being a reader myself and having spelling come easily, it was quite a shock to find out my youngest child was struggling desperately in those areas. Because I myself don’t have any problem it is hard to understand how she can “not get it”. I never realized that it took so much review to actually allow a concept to stay in memory. Thanks so much for giving me hope again.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Teresa,
It can be especially difficult to teach something that we find so easy and natural. This is the Curse of Knowledge, as we know something so well we can’t remember what it took to learn it.

I’m glad you found this helpful, but let me know if you have questions or need further help.

Amy Ketola

says:

Thank you for these ideas. We forget how much each child in our large family needs experiences in learning and relearning spelling and word patterns. This offered helpful ways to effectively reinforce.

Angela

says:

Since using both of the programs (AAR & AAS), I have noticed a tremendous improvement in my son’s reading and spelling, which have resulted in a big improvement in his standardized testing scores. I attribute it to the design of the program and the constant review. It has boost his confidence. He loves when we review words and we’re able to file it under the “mastered” section. I’m so proud of him and grateful for this program. He used to hate to read and now he initiates reading and enjoys it! The technique used in AAR & AAS helps the information to stick!!!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Angela,
This is such great news! I love that your son now has confidence especially. That’s so important for learning success! Thank you for sharing his story. Keep up the amazing work!

Kari McCloskey

says:

This makes so much sense! I struggle with incorporating review in many of our subjects, but this approach is so straightforward- I think the method can help in other areas of school, too!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Kari,
Yes! Regular review, particularly if done in a fun and light-hearted way, can help with learning of any subject. 😊

Love the “funnel concept” whenever I am teaching a new concept to my students; I picture the funnel and scale down the information I am bombing them with! :)

Marie Rippel

says: Customer Service

I’m glad that this visual is helpful to you! Thanks for being a teacher! :)

Samantha

says:

Perfect timing for me to be reading this blog post. We started AAR 1 in February of this year, and then stalled out sometime after Memorial Day until last week. Two weeks before we picked back up my 6 year old has eye muscle surgery on both eyes because he had Esotropia in both of them (lazy eye). I never thought I’d be happy that a set back happened until last week when I opened the book at lesson 1, and read the tips and suggestions again. Previously I was allowing him to sound out in his head and then counting the word as mastered. We are no longer doing that. Due to the long break all of those word cards went back into the review section. We’re going to review each lesson again.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Samantha,
I’m sorry your little one had to have surgery, but it sounds like the break was useful. Let me know if you need any help or have questions as you start back up.

Heidi

says:

My 5-year-old insisted that she was ready to learn to read and wanted to “do school” like her 2 older sisters. We started AAR Level 1 and struggled. Just as I was ready to throw in the towel and chalk it up to “she’s just not quite ready yet,” amid her tears of “yes, I am ready,” I went back and re-read the “instructions” in the teacher’s manual. I knew it had to be something I was doing wrong. Sure enough, I was stuck on lesson 1 because I thought she needed to have mastery of the lesson before we moved on. Once I realized that I should keep going with the lessons, regardless of mastery – let me just say “game changer.” We’re now on Lesson 5 and she’s reading more confidently, there’s no more tears or frustration, and everything is clicking for her. Glad we stuck with it. Thanks for a fantastic reading program!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Heidi,
It sounds like you have a good handle on All About Reading 1 now!

Just to clarify, AAR does expect mastery of the concepts. That is, your child needs to be able to sound out the words without struggle before moving on. However, it can take time, sometimes half the book or so, before children will naturally be able to read words without needing to sound them out. That is fine. Here are some activities you can do to help her with fluency, being able to read the words smoothly and without sounding out, as you move forward:

The Change-the-Word activities are especially helpful for working on blending and paying attention to ALL sounds in a word. Change one letter at a time, starting with simple 3-sound words like: bat-sat-sit-sip-tip-top…and so on. This activity is also really helpful for working on consonant blends when you get to those lessons (starting around Lesson 24).

The Word Cards allow you to track what has been mastered and what still needs work. Keep word cards in daily review until she can read them easily, without needing to sound them out. Here are some fun review ideas for word cards. The Word cards will stack up as you go, so just rotate through a portion for 2-3 minutes each day and then pick up in the book wherever you left off previously. And here’s a fun little video explaining what to do when the cards stack up.

The fluency practice pages can be re-used as well. You might enjoy our “Top Tips” for using the Fluency practice pages. (And check out the comments as well–lots of fun suggestions in there!)

The appendices in the level 1 teacher’s manual have lots of ideas for reviewing word cards and fluency pages. Be sure to check these for more ideas.

Students who struggle with fluency will also benefit from rereading the same story two or three days in a row to gain fluency and confidence. Buddy Reading can be very powerful in helping students who are in this stage of struggling with fluency.

Rereading the stories will help accomplish these goals:
– Increase word rate
– Improve prosody. Prosody is “expressive reading.” It involves phrasing (grouping words into meaningful phrases), emphasis, and intonation (raising pitch at the end of questions, lowering pitch at the end of sentences)
– Improve automaticity (be able to recognize most words automatically without having to sound them out each time)

I hope this gives you some additional ideas. Please let me know if your daughter has any other struggles or if you have questions.

Melissa

says:

This was helpful, thank you. We started All about Spelling 1 this year and I feel that it has been very helpful to my daughter. She’s in second grade and we’re treating through the lessons pretty quickly but I wanted her to start at the beginning to get down the system and a good foundation. We’ll see how she transitions when she’s catches up to get level and the lessons get a bit harder. I think reviewing will get more and more important as we go on. Thanks!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Sounds great, Melissa!

I just wanted to add that All About Spelling 1 is not equivalent to first grade, however. The levels and word lists in the All About Spelling program are arranged by concepts and spelling patterns rather than by grade levels. Though many of the words presented in Level 1 are found on typical first-grade lists, other words in the same book can be found on typical fifth-grade lists. The method we use defies normal grade level classification.

For example, another spelling program lists the words cross, off, and plant on their fourth-grade list, but these words can easily be spelled by a child completing the Level 1 book. That same program includes the words school and yellow on its first-grade list, but expecting kids to spell words like those before mastering more basic syllable types undermines their future spelling ability.

All About Spelling groups words in a logical manner based on similar rules or spelling patterns regardless of their supposed grade level, which allows students to progress quickly and confidently. AAS Level 7, the final level, takes students up through high school level spelling. The program teaches all of the words on the Ayres list (except a few which aren’t in common use anymore), which ranks words up to 12th grade, as well as words from other lists that are ranked between 9th and 12th grade.

It is fine, even wonderful, to move through the steps in a level quickly if your child is mastering the concepts easily. However, please don’t feel the need to move through it quickly to catch up to grade level as our levels aren’t grade levels.

Please let me know if you have any questions.

Misti

says:

Making spelling a habit is so important to me. This article really emphasized ways to do that.

Janine

says:

Thank you for the reminder. It becomes so easy to skip the reviewing when I’m short on time but it really does help my son!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Janine,
I understand opting to get right to the new stuff when you are pressed for time. Life requires you make choices on what to do and what not to do sometimes!

However, when time is short it is often a good idea to spend that time on review only. It allows for a positive lesson because since it’s review, he’ll have the best chance for success. And reviewing, of course, helps him be prepared when you have time to start the new material.

Jennifer Edwards

says:

We like to play sight word stomp! It gets him moving and he gets to review sight words!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Sight word stomp sounds like a great review game, Jennifer! Thanks for the idea.

Jennifer Edwards

says:

It helps him with his proprioception and helps it stick!

Amy Uptain

says:

Great tips! Thank you!

I love the AAS program and its review review while introducing new spelling rules and words. We homeschool with Classical Conversations and this program goes hand in hand with AAS to reinforce and strengthen the memory muscle in my kids and myself. Thanks AAS

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

April,
All About Spelling’s focus on learning phonograms and rules and ongoing review does go hand-in-hand with Classical Homeschooling!

Nicole

says:

We love All About Spelling!

Courtney Muir

says:

This is good information! I hadn’t realized how important reviewing is.

Kelly Grundhofer

says:

Thanks for sharing this… it’s a great reminder.

Lisa Seaman

says:

Thank you for your helpful insights!!

Tayler

says:

Thank you for this reminder! With a full house it’s easy to overlook a solid, hands on review.

Jaime

says:

This advise is so helpful! My daughter is beginning to understand how things are spelled more and more each day just by using these concepts. It has definitely given her the confidence to write more and not be as frustrated with spelling. She still spells some things wrong but is on the right track now and has more smiles to go with it. 🙂

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

How exciting that you are seeing the improvements in your daughter’s confidence and spelling, Jaime! I think seeing this sort of progress right before my eyes is one of the hidden joys of homeschooling. Enjoy it!

Andrea

says:

Thanks for the Memory ebook. Just what I need to help my grandson.

Mel

says:

This program looks really good!

Erin Baker

says:

Review is a critical piece of teaching and learning. I love how the AAS lessons incorporate review into each lesson!

Paula Flory

says:

I am doing level one with my 8 year old and he is really liking it! I do agree that the review is very necessary and just reinforces it in their memory.

Natasha Sawyer

says:

Thank you for creating such a wonderful program!

Sally Chancellor

says:

One of my favorite things about AAS is the review cards. I actually keep the box in the car, and we review on the way to and from all their activities, or while waiting for one of the kids to be done with something.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Sally,
I love the idea of keeping review material in the car! What a great way to use otherwise wasted time. Thanks for sharing this.

Jeanette Evans McCormick

says:

There are some great tips in here. My son has a difficult time with spelling. He probably doesn’t get enough review. I will be downloading the Ebook.

Autumn

says:

I’m so glad your program is so well researched and thought out. You guys make your program so easy to follow – thank you! All About Spelling has been one of the best curriculum choices I’ve ever made for our family.

Carrie

says:

My son struggles with memory so this is helpful to give me a different perspective on how to help him. Thanks!

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