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Spelling: How Much Time Should I Spend?

Child writing from spelling Sound Card

If you’re wondering how much time you should spend on spelling lessons, you aren’t alone! This is one of the most frequently asked questions about the All About Spelling program.

Fortunately, there is a really simple answer that works in most situations.

How Much Time Should I Spend?

I generally recommend spending 20 minutes a day, five days a week on spelling lessons.

Of course, this general recommendation may not fit your family’s situation perfectly. You may need to customize the length of your lessons to fit your child’s specific needs.

But that’s the great thing about All About Spelling—it’s easy to customize. Here are a few more things to think about as you plan your day:

  1. Take your child’s age and attention span into consideration. If your child is young, has a hard time sitting still, or is just starting out in spelling, you may want to start with as little as ten minutes per day. You can gradually build up the time as your child matures and his attention span grows.
  2. Child writing on whiteboard
  3. Short lessons every day are more effective than longer, less-frequent lessons. In a short lesson, your child’s attention is less likely to wander, and you’ll find that you can accomplish more when your student is actively engaged in the lesson. Keep the lessons upbeat and fast-paced to hold the child’s interest. Even if you are working with an older child who can focus for a longer period of time, 20 minutes is all you need to review old material, teach the new concept, and write several sentences from dictation. Students can only absorb so much new information at once, and then the rest isn’t retained.

    Sometimes we hear from moms whose kids balk at spelling lesson time, only to find out that the mom is trying to push through multiple lessons in one sitting, or is spending an hour on extra lessons in order to “catch up.” Even if they were just as effective as short lessons, long lessons make spelling seem like drudgery. As much as possible, we want to keep lessons light and fun.

  4. Remember that you don’t need to complete an entire Step in a day. In fact, sometimes a student will need a whole week to complete a Step. The speed at which your child masters a Step depends on the student’s age, attention span, prior experience, and the concepts being taught. The All About Spelling program is completely flexible and customizable so you can breeze through sections that are easy for your student and spend more time on difficult concepts.

    If you’re new to All About Spelling and are wondering what a “Step” is, download this free lesson sample from Level 2, Step 16. Each Step teaches one new concept, and in this Step, students learn words with the sound of /ar/ as in farm.

    Lessons samples from All About Spelling Level 2

    There are three main sections in each Step: Review, New Teaching, and Reinforcement. If you can’t get through the entire Step in a day, simply mark the page to hold your spot. The next day, start with a quick review of the flashcards (Phonogram Cards, Sound Cards, Key Cards, and Word Cards), and then pick up where you left off the previous day.

  5. Use a timer. After you’ve determined the best length of time for your situation, set a timer at the beginning of the lesson. This will help you stay on track and not make the lesson go on too long. Your child will be encouraged to stay focused because he knows that the lesson will end, and you won’t be tempted to keep pushing past the time you agreed upon.

The Bottom Line

The most important thing to remember when planning spelling lessons is to keep them “short, sweet, and consistent.” Your child’s brain is like a muscle, and consistent exercise does much more to develop muscle than occasional big bursts of energy. And shorter lessons keep your child coming back for more!

Short, effective lessons are just one of the ways we make spelling easy! Download my free e-book, “Six Ways We Make Spelling Easy,” to discover six powerful features of All About Spelling that will revolutionize your teaching!

Six Ways We Make Spelling Easy Report

Photo credit: Jamie at The Unlikely Homeschool and Michelle at Delightful Learning

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Holly Rutherford

says:

I love the recommendation of 20 min. at a time. I have definitely learned that gives students time to absorb and make connections with what they are learning.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Good point, Holly. Keeping lessons short allows students to make the most of the lesson!

Amber

says:

Love the flexibility of AAS. Shorten or lengthen the lesson time to fit the student’s prime learning zone. Spelling doesn’t have to be dreaded!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Such great points, Amber! The flexibility to adapt to each student’s needs is one of the reasons All About Spelling is so effective.

Sally

says:

We struggled with how much time to spend on a Lesson. The timer works well for both of us.!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I’m glad to hear the timer is working well for both of you, Sally! It is such a useful tool for school.

Amy

says:

This is really helpful!

Sherry

says:

The idea of using a timer is great! I have a reluctant speller, so a visual that gives her motivation and hope for the end to come, may help her see it through to the end!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I’m glad you like the timer idea, Sherry! It does work very well for many students, knowing that the lesson won’t go on forever.

Roxana

says:

Using a timer is a brilliant idea! It allows the student(s) to give their all for just a short amount of time and feel confident in their accomplishments once the timer goes off.
Thank you for sharing your advice

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome, Roxana!

Rahul Vasanth R

says:

It has been quite helpful to do short sessions of around 20 minutes. My kid and me manage to sometimes squeeze in a quick session in our schedule and complete a part of a step, instead of planning to complete one full step in each session.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I’m pleased to hear that the short lessons are working out so well fo you, Rahul!

Connie

says:

This is our first year homeschool and I’ve started using this curriculum to fill in gaps for my kids. It’s even helped me understand spelling rules I didn’t know

Sara Hagy

says:

This is my first year using AAR & AAS. My second grader recently finished her lessons for AAR 2 and AAS 2. My kindergartener is enjoying the pre-reading level, but I made the mistake of starting him on AAS 1 too soon. He is learning and improving, but he currently does not look forward to spelling. He has a language delay, sensory processing disorder, and I believe he has a poor working memory and comprehension. The steps take many days for him to complete. He becomes frustrated and discouraged easily. He also doesn’t like the fact that his sister has more stickers on her progress chart. I have started using a timer with the spelling lessons, so we don’t go too long. I wonder if I should finish AAS 1 with him or discontinue it until he has completed AAR 1?

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Sara,
We recommend waiting until a student has finished All About Reading level 1 before even beginning All About Spelling. Spelling is more difficult than reading, so having a good foundation in reading helps make learning to spell easier.

If your student was doing well in AAS, it would be okay to go ahead with it since you have already started, but since he is having difficulties, I recommend stopping All About Spelling. When he finishes AAR level 1, then restart AAS 1 at the beginning. He will likely move through the steps that are review quickly, but starting at the beginning again will ensure nothing important was forgotten during the break.

I hope this helps. Let me know if you have further questions.

Michelle Kramer

says:

We do about 10 minutes a day and my first grader is loving it!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Great to hear, Michelle!

Jennifer You

says:

I love the idea of a timer!

Karen McLain

says:

Thank you for the great ideas!

Charissa Reed

says:

Good to know this info as my son has a short attention span.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Charissa,
Yes, short attention spans are especially benefited from short lessons.

Ellery

says:

Excellent advise.
Ellery

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you, Ellery.

Michael's Mom, Patricia

says:

This program is really working for my son, who has dyslexia! I can’t tell you what it has done for his confidence. On level 2 and looking forward to growing to Level 3!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I’m so happy to hear that your son is gaining confidence, Patricia!

Ana

says:

Starting on AAR 2 and we are having so much fun while learning!

Kelly Keefer

says:

The unnecessary learning of sight words has led us to AAS

Allison

says:

My daughters have improved so much this year in AAR1. I can’t wait to start Pre Reading with my 5 year old when it comes :-)

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

It’s wonderful to hear how well your daughters have been doing with All About Reading, Allison! Thank you.

Carolsue

says:

I was always a good speller in school, so it’s frustrating that my kids aren’t and don’t even seem to try!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Spelling comes very easily and naturally for some learners, Carolsue, and it is near impossible with traditional the weekly spelling lists approach for others. Once spelling is broken down to make sense, these students almost always start having success. Check out our 7 Ways to Make Spelling Logical blog post.

Danielle Fisher

says:

I love that the lessons are short but impactful.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

We agree, Danielle!

N Laine

says:

Thanks for the info!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome!

Judith Martinez

says:

These are helpful guidelines. I’ve tried really hard to keep our lessons short.

Christina Holbrook

says:

Love you spelling and reading curriculums!
They make teaching and learning so enjoyable!

Michele

says:

My 8yo son has so much fun doing his spelling lessons. He is always asking to do another lesson. He used to hate spelling and now that he is finally understanding the rules, he loves it! Thanks AAS!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I’m so pleased to hear how well your son is doing with All About Spelling, Michele! So great!

Ashley

says:

So many of my friends have recommended this for learning to read age and I can’t wait to start using it with my little one!! :)

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I’m excited that you have had All About Reading recommended to you by multiple people, Ashley! Let me know if you have any questions, need help with placement, or need anything else.

Melanie Shea

says:

Looking forward to starting this program.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Do you have any questions or need help with placement or anything as you start, Melanie? Just let me know.

Candace Lamkin

says:

I love this article. I really like the idea of review, new teaching, reinforcement. I also like the idea of short effective lessons!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you, Candace. Yes, short lessons done consistently really pay off!

Jennifer

says:

How many new words should we practice spelling in a day?

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Do you mean new words from All About Spelling, Jennifer? After the concept in the step is taught, students are usually ready to practice all 10 of the words from that step that day. However, some students really need more time to master the concept and practice it, so it may be best to practice the 10 words from the step the next day.

That is why some families use a timer. They get as much as the child can get done in one 20 minute period.

Does this answer your question? Please let me know if you need more information.

Andria Gipson

says:

I didn’t realize I had questions until I read so many of the comments. So maybe you’ve already answered this in the comments below but I don’t have the time to read all of them. I’m hoping you can take the time to help me even though I’m not taking the time to read through the comments. Sorry about the consumerism nature of that.

At any rate my daughter has severe dyslexia it took us over 3 years to complete level one of AAR she’s 8 now and we are chugging along through level 2 and plan to start AAS after the New Year. She is improving a lot in handwriting but because of her dyslexia it’s still fairly laborious for her. I usually do 20 minutes a day of AAR and she is usually assigned a small writing assignment each day (work book, copy work, or a complete the thought type of assignment that should easily be able to be done in under 10 minutes) I planned to do AAS for about 15 minutes a day. What should I add next and at what point do you know it’s time to add more (LA related obviously :) )

I also have a 6 year old without dyslexia who is doing great she is about to complete level 1 of AAR and will start AAS and her handwriting is the same as her sisters at this point as well as her time frame spent on each topic.

Thank you so much for your help!

Merry

says: Customer Service

Hi Andria, great questions! I think you have a good plan laid out for both of your girls–adding a little at a time instead of changing too much at once. This article on Lanugage Arts can help you think through your priorities each year and what you want to focus on: https://blog.allaboutlearningpress.com/language-arts-in-my-household/

All About Spelling has a gradual progression for increasing the student’s stamina and fluency in writing that’s very helpful for beginning and struggling writers. It starts with just words and short phrases in Level 1, bumps up to phrases and short sentences in Level 2, and progresses to 12 dictation sentences per step in Level 3.  Partway through this level, the Writing Station is introduced.  In this exercise, students write sentences of their own that they make up using some of their spelling words.

In this way, students have begun to use words in a more real-world context through dictation and writing, to help them transition to longer writing assignments.

Dictation and the Writing Station both serve as an important bridge between spelling words in the context of lists (where the patterns are similar), and more “real world” writing.  By the end of Level 3, students have mastered about 1000 words from the regular and reinforcement lists, and they have developed stamina and some beginning editing skills that will help them when they start a formal writing program.

I would also encourage you to check out our Dyslexia Resources page if you haven’t already: https://blog.allaboutlearningpress.com/category/dyslexia/

Good for you and your daughter for persevering with reading! I know that’s hard work, but it will pay off. I hope this helps! Please let me know if you have additional questions. Happy New Year!

Danielle

says:

I’m just starting AAS 1 with my daughter who just finished AAR 1. My question is…Is it possible to get too far ahead in the spelling steps, to where you overtake what they have learned in reading? As in, would it be a problem if she was one day working in AAR 2 but already up to AAS 3? I don’t know if this will end up happening, but just am wondering if I need to KEEP it from happening by accident, if it would cause problems with her not having enough background knowedledge to complete the spelling lessons?

Thanks so much!!

P.S. I used to teach in public school with Spalding and was also briefly trained in Orton-Gillingham methods…I LOVE your materials and how user-friendly they are, to the point where I can easily recommend them to friends without a teaching background – I coudn’t say that about Spalding, with its more complex learning curve. I’m so thankful I found your program!!

Nicole L Schofield

says:

I commented on this thread a year ago, but I’ll address your question now. We have been using AAR and AAS for seven years with five kids, now. I have found that usually, the child has a reading “leap” somewhere between ages 6 and 7 and finishes the reading program years before the spelling program. Just to give you an idea: Our oldest son, age 13, finished AAS 7 a few months ago; he took 7 years for Levels 1-7 in spelling. I didn’t do AAR with him, as he was reading at an advanced level prior to my knowing about AAL Press. Our 5th grade daughter finished AAR 4 at age 8 and now, at age 11, she is eight steps into AAS 6. Our 2nd grade son is gifted in language, so he finished AAR 4 at age 7 and is blasting through spelling–he is nearly done with AAS 4 already and will likely finish AAS 5 before June. Our 1st grade son, age 6.5, is in AAR 3 and AAS 1. I do teach letter sounds starting at age 3.5-4 and do the AAR pre-reading book at age 4; we start AAR Level 1 at age 5. But even if you start later and start AAR and AAS at the same time, at some point the child will get ahead in reading, at least in my experience. The AAR practice sheets become a lot shorter in late Level 2 and Levels 3-4, and the child’s fluency builds, so it doesn’t take them as long to complete steps and read stories. But there’s no reason to worry. If spelling is overtaking reading, just back off until the child’s reading catches up. Also, spelling is really easy in Level 1. It gets more complicated in Level 2 and on, especially when learning rules for things like adding suffixes and the various ways to spell the same sound. So slowing down will likely be needed, unless the child is just naturally good at spelling (like my third child). My oldest two are NOT naturally good at spelling, so they need(ed) more time. You mentioned below that you need to stop planning ahead so much. YES! I am a planner too and like to know when kids will accomplish certain things. BUT in these kinds of programs, it is less stressful to work consistently through the programs, adjusting the pace as needed, and trust that you will make good progress and that you have the freedom to hold off on one program to accommodate their progress in the other.

Danielle

says:

Thanks so much, I appreciate hearing the varied experiences of all your kids. Also the info on how the AAR practice sheets progress in Levels 2-4. And it’s nice to know that AAS Level 2 gets more difficult…skimming Level 1, it looked so easy – thus my question! It’s so interesting how this method uses phonics/reading to inform their learning of spelling, where as a method I used previously (in public school) used their phonics/spelling work as the basis for beginning their reading. Either way, the basic foundation is the phonograms, which I love. And the way each child learns differently can be so different from child to child…amazing! It’s such a neat process, watching them learn and progress, and I love how we’re blessed to see that over the course of 13+ years, if we choose to!! Yes, I’m sure as you say I can trust they’ll make good progress and just keep going with it! Thanks!!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Danielle,
My youngest child got ahead in spelling when she was in All About Reading 2. It was fine!

As she continued in All About Spelling, she naturally started slowing down. The concepts and many ways of spelling one sound required us to review more and in time she got a little ahead in reading again. When finished AAR 4, she was in the second half of AAS 4.

This is not all that common, but it does happen occasionally. Kids usually don’t stay ahead for long though. Remember that there are 7 spelling levels but 4 reading levels because spelling is more difficult. That’s one reason Why We Teach Reading and Spelling Separately. AAS Level 1 tends to be pretty easy for kids, at least until the last 8-9 lessons. The dictations gradually get longer in subsequent levels, and sometimes that will help to slow a child down too. You can spread a lesson over as many days as needed so that the writing is not too overwhelming.

One thing I noticed was that since my daughter didn’t have the visual reinforcement of reading, sometimes it took longer for her to really solidify certain spelling patterns. For example, when to use the AI phonogram such as rain versus when to use the A-consonant-E pattern, such as bake. At that point, I had my daughter read a word bank every day, no matter if they are scheduled or not (word banks are introduced in AAS 2). I also required her to always read what she wrote (and I had to remind her to do it each time). It was weird, as sometimes she would have to slowly sound out the word she just wrote quickly without hesitation.

I also spent more days on each step as the different patterns and ways of spelling sounds were introduced. With your training, you know to slow down as needed for your student. But if your daughter doesn’t need you to slow down, it is more than fine for her to keep going forward with spelling!

Thank you for your kind words about our materials. Let me know if you have any questions or need anything else.

Danielle

says:

Thank you so much, that’s really helpful information! It’s nice the program can flex to the kids’ needs…I just need to let go of the feeling that I want to plan out all the coming years and just take one week at a time!! :)

Beth

says:

I wouldn’t worry about it too much. If one program starts to feel a bit difficult, you can back off and focus more on the other for awhile.

Danielle

says:

Thanks!!

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