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Teaching Reading and Spelling to Multiple Kids

Two boys playing a reading game together

“I have three kids in three different levels. Will your program work for me?”

It’s a question that our customer service reps have heard many times before. Because All About Reading and All About Spelling are programs that require active instruction, some parents assume that if they have more than one child, these programs won’t work for them.

Here are some of the concerns raised by parents:

  • Will it take too long to teach all my children?
  • How will I keep my other kids busy?
  • How will I keep everything organized?

Of course, we could answer all these questions ourselves, but sometimes parents would rather hear answers from “the trenches,” from real moms who use AAR and AAS in their own homes. We get that.

So here are some answers from a few moms who shared their thoughts about teaching reading and spelling to multiple children.

How Do You Handle Daily Lessons?

When it comes to juggling the programs with her children, Kristen says…

I hear from folks who think it would be too hard to juggle these programs for multiple children in their home, and I want to show you that not only is it possible, it’s extremely rewarding.

Both All About Reading and All About Spelling are scripted curricula, which means they are parent-intensive. It’s not the sort of curricula where you just throw a workbook at your kid and hope it sticks. This requires active parent participation. But just because these resources are parent-intensive doesn’t mean they take tons of time to plan or prepare. In fact, I personally take little to no time to prepare. Yes, you heard me correctly.

Most days I just take a minute or two to preview the lesson prior to starting and to make sure I have any coordinated activity pages or new letter tiles if needed. But really, the resources are written so you can just pop it open and go.

Reading and spelling books for multiple kids on a book shelf

Kristen also shared her thoughts about using an older sibling as a teacher’s helper.

I’m always amazed at how happily my girls volunteer to help me teach their siblings. They enjoy assuming the role of teacher’s helper, at the same time reinforcing their own learning. For example, Mira really struggled with rhyming. When Stella had her first rhyming lesson, I realized I could ask big sister for her help in directing the lesson while surreptitiously giving her the opportunity to review a challenging skillthe old “two birds, one stone” approach.

Stella recently started the All About Reading program, and yesterday Mira and Stella ran up to me after lunch and asked if they could pull out Ziggy (our friendly zebra puppet) to do a lesson. I told them I would love to but I didn’t have time to teach just then.

Mira responded, “Oh don’t worry. I can teach.”

Older child teaching younger with Ziggy the zebra puppet.

Robin (one of our awesome customer service reps) lets her older kids help teach the younger ones, too!

If you have older children who work well with your younger children, you can enlist their help. This can be helpful if you have an older student who needs to review rules. Generally, when we teach something, we learn it more thoroughly. So with this scenario, both children benefit!

Elaine from Humble Dwelling teaches five kids! Here are her thoughts.

How do I teach five kids all these lessons without getting overwhelmed? First, we do spelling only on Fridays. Each lesson takes about 20 minutes max. I do verbally quiz them through the week, sometimes even at the dinner table, to see what rules they can remember or how to spell a particular word. Also, to save me some time, Liam and Jack do spelling lessons together.

Reading is done twice a week. Again, these lessons are only about 20 minutes, including the fun activities that go with each one.

So, between spelling and reading for five children, I spend about two and a half hours per week teaching. While that may seem like a short time for teaching reading and spelling, this program is really effective. All my children are strong readers and spellers, and I owe it to All About Learning Press!

2 children playing a reading game together.

Here’s what Lisa from The Happy Homeschool Mom had to say about combining children in one level.

All About Reading is based on ability rather than grade level, so if you have children that are very close in ability you can combine them. You can find placement tests here.

My eight-year-old and ten-year-old are very close in reading ability, so we have always done reading and spelling together. Doing their reading lessons together has not only made things easier on me, but it encourages them as well and they enjoy doing the activities together. (Learn more about combining children in one level of All About Reading or All About Spelling in this post.)

If we have word cards to review, the boys take turns reading the cards. Each boy reads five cards. Then I build words on our small board and they take turns reading the words that I build. Then the next day they switch and read the others. They do the same with the fluency practice. The first day they each read half of the sentences and the next day they switch and read the other words and sentences.

And they play the games together. It’s their favorite part!

Robin has a great idea about time management.

Be sure to keep transition times between kids down to a minimum. I stack everyone’s spelling and reading materials on our school table and have each child come to me when it’s their turn. I let my kids know that I won’t wait for them to finish what they are doing when it is their turn for reading or spelling. I usually try to give each child a five-minute warning to help ensure that they’ll be ready.

You’ll want to spend about 15 minutes per day on your reading and spelling lessons. If you can’t finish a whole “lesson” in 15 minutes, that’s fine! Just pick up where you left off the next day.

How Do You Keep the Other Kids Busy?

Ticia from Adventures in Mommydom has a couple of wonderful ideas for keeping the other kids occupied.

In my house, reading is a 1:1 class ratio. Yes, I’m teaching reading to multiple kids, but I’m doing it one child at a time. We have a set rotation and different kids go first each day.

Some of my favorite techniques for keeping the other kids occupied:

Buddy reading with a sibling

  • provides extra reading practice
  • helps the weaker reader because the stronger reader will correct and help them
  • helps the stronger reader by allowing them to be the teacher

Independent reading

  • encourages enjoyment of reading
  • provides practice in reading silently (which my kids are still working on)
  • increases concentration skills while others are making noise (not that this is a problem in my house)
Boy in a chair reading independently.

Robin has some ideas on occupying other siblings, too.

Older children who can work independently can be doing “school things” like handwriting and math while Mom is teaching another child. You may need to get a bit creative with your younger children. Some ideas include “projects” like cutting up magazines, assigning an older child to help them with a subject or read to them, assigned chores, independent reading, or quiet playtime.

And Kristen shared a great idea about avoiding interruptions.

In order to avoid constant interruptions during big sister’s lesson, I place my younger children on their laptops where they play educational games that supplement their own reading lessons.

How Do You Organize AAR and AAS?

Ticia has a simple but effective way of keeping track of where her kids are in their lessons.

Despite the fact that my boys are twins, my kids are at three different levels in reading. One son is almost done with All About Reading Level 2, while his brother and sister are at different spots in that same one.

The first step is to have your reading program organized. First, I’ve got super official bookmarks in the place of each child’s lesson. They may look like scraps of paper to the casual observer, but these are my official “where you’re at” papers. To help me gauge their mastery of the lesson, I move the bookmark to their current place in the lesson to give me an idea of how many more days I think they might need to practice.

Elaine has a few organization tips as well.

All About Reading comes with phonogram cards and word cards. Using the cards that come with both AAR and AAS is a big help with having those sounds stick in the kids’ brains! I store all of our flashcards in the super sturdy little boxes that come with the interactive kits. Liam’s is still kicking after five years!

All About Reading and All About Spelling review boxes for several children

I keep all the teacher’s manuals, student workbooks, and readers in one spot for easy access. Some days I prepare ahead, but honestly most days I don’t have time to do so. The teacher’s manuals are scripted and very easy to follow, so not much extra preparation is needed. That is a HUGE help for me!

And finally, sticker charts! These charts help me remember what lesson each of my children are on every day. So simple, yet so effective!

Progress charts showing progress for multiple students.

What about organizing all those letter tiles? Lisa has a good system.

I have two different boards we use for All About Reading. We have a big board that hangs on the wall and holds all the letter tiles. We also have a small one that sits on the table we use for our lessons. Both boards have the alphabet on them, and I pull extra tiles off the big board to use on the small board during lessons.

Speaking of letter tiles, Kristen weighed in on this question, too.

The use of magnetic letter tiles is a staple of the All About Reading and All About Spelling lessons. I keep all our tiles on one large board. My younger children focus on just the vowel and consonant tiles while my oldest uses the complete set in her lessons. So far, this hasn’t overwhelmed my younger kids and it saves me time by not forcing me to remove and replace different sets of tiles for each child.

Image of child spelling a word with letter tiles.

The Bottom Line for Teaching AAR and AAS to Multiple Kids

  • All About Reading and All About Spelling are scripted programs that require very little daily prep for the teacher.
  • Children of similar abilities can easily be combined and taught together.
  • A well-organized area for teaching reading and spelling will help your homeschool days run more efficiently.
  • Teaching multiple children will not look the same for every family. It’s important that you create a system that works for your family!

Are you teaching reading and spelling to multiple children? Do you have any ideas to share? Please let us know in the comments below!

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Maxine

says:

These are all amazing suggestions and tips! I’m a homeschooler with 5 kiddos at home, including 1 special needs child. I hope AAR and AAS give us what we need. I can’t wait to get started.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Maxine,
As a homeschool mom of 5 myself, I know it can difficult to juggle your time to meet each child’s educational needs. However, hopefully the tips and ideas in this blog can help you as you begin. Let me know if you have questions or need help with placement or anything else.

Erica

says:

These are all great ideas and very encouraging. However, we are stuck in a rut. I have one kid in AAS 4 and one in AAS 5 (and 4 younger ones kids not spelling yet). When life gets busy, spelling tends to fall by the wayside, and we have not been able to make much progress the last 6 months. My kids have never complained about spelling, and I see the value in the dictation exercises. But too much time passes between lessons and we spend a lot of time revIewing instead of moving on. Do you have any suggestions for 1) getting us moving forward again after a break from spelling and 2) ways to keep reviewing even when Mama can’t teach new lessons (perhaps things the kids can do on their own to retain what they have already learned)

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Erica,
I understand how hard it can be to juggle a houseful of kids while homeschooling; I have 5 myself. One thing I have found helpful over the years is when I notice a subject is getting neglected that I felt was too important to neglect, I would rearrange our schedule to make it first. Doing spelling first thing for a while may help you.

Consider, when you don’t have much time, doing a very short spelling lesson rather than skipping it altogether. We recommend working on spelling for just 20 minutes a day, but if you can’t do 20 minutes doing 5 is better than doing none. Reviewing the cards and maybe doing a couple dictation sentences will keep the material fresh in your students’ minds so that when you do have time for a new lesson you don’t have to review first.

Some families will teach a lesson on one day, and then record (using an app on their phone or other means) the 10 words, the More Words (if any), the Dictations, and the Writing Station words. Their student will listen and write those words and dictations. The parent still needs to correct and reteach the words that the student struggles with. Maybe you could work out a pattern where you work with one student in spelling one day while the other does the recordings and then switch the next day. Please note, this is for students who don’t have a lot of spelling struggles. Students who do struggle need more immediate feedback so that they aren’t reinforcing misspellings.

I hope this helps and you find some solution that works out for your family. However, let me know if you need more help.

Jennifer

says:

I have just set up AAS 1 with my 2nd and 4th graders. I am excited to get started!

CK

says:

I am both intimidated and excited at the idea of trying to teach this program to by children. We have started AAS with my oldest and are considering the prospect of venturing into AAR to strengthen his reading capability and his reading confidence.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

CK,
Do you have any specific questions or concerns about All About Reading that may help you overcome your intimidation?

Bonnie

says:

Very helpful information! Thanks for all the tips!

Sarah

says:

My eldest has been using AAS for a few months and loves it. Her younger sister started last week and brings me the book and cards every day with a big smile.

Let the organizing commence. :)

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I love that your younger daughter brings you the book and cards with a smile! Thank you for sharing that, Sarah.

Sara

says:

Great tips! I have 8 year old twins but they are working at different levels in all about reading. I was worried I’d be doing twice as much teaching.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Sara,
It’s great that this article was helpful for you with teaching your children at different levels! Thanks for letting us know.

Sara

says:

I’m looking for guidance in teaching this to a small group or co-op, or possibly as a tutor. How would you suggest working with a small group of kids either once or twice a week and then having their parents work with them the other days?

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Sara,
I replied to your question by email as I wanted to attach documents in my reply, so please check your email. Attached to it you will find documents about using All About Reading and All About Spelling as a tutor and in a hybrid school that meets twice a week and then has parents teach the remainder of the week. These documents answer your question.

Our blog post specifically aimed at teachers has a lot of information and forms that you will find helpful with tutoring or hybrid school teaching, including forms for sight word assessment and record keeping. The blog post is 12 Reasons Teachers Love All About Reading and All About Spelling.

Please let us know if you have further questions or concerns. All About Reading and All About Spelling have been used for years by tutors and teachers of hybrid schools, so we know they will work for you too.

Gwen

says:

I just wanted to pop in and say how much we are loving our AAS and AAR programs – so much so that I really wish we had known about this five years ago! I can’t recommend it enough; especially for reading or spelling struggles. It has been the key to opening the door of success with my oldest child. The program works great even if there are no learning challenges present. I also started my second child in the program when I started my oldest.
My daughter is advancing rapidly and needs a little more challenge with her dictation sentences, so I will usually modify them somewhat to make them longer. To make it a little more fun for us, I have started incorporating short jokes and riddles into the dictation portion that include words that we have practiced in our lessons. I like to use the jokes and riddles from: http://www.bestfamilyadvice.com/riddles.html

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Gwen,
What a great idea to use jokes and riddles for dictation! It sounds like so much fun.

Thank you for sharing your children’s success with reading and spelling with us!

Jenny

says:

Great tips!!

Valerie

says:

I have four kids in various levels this year, as well as two other kids, this post was helpful!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Valerie,
We’re happy to hear that this post was helpful for you. It does feel like juggling a bit to teach multiple levels of All About Reading and All About Spelling, but it is possible! Please let us know if you have additional questions or concerns.

Megan

says:

I will be starting my oldest on AAS and my middle in AAR this year. I am considering letting my youngest sit in on the reading lessons, just in case he picks up something. Thanks for the info!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Megan,
I am doing the same this year, but with science. My boys are doing Physical Science, and while my daughter isn’t ready for all the lab write-ups and tests and everything, she is listening in and learning.

Nicole

says:

Thanks for all of the helpful suggestions!

Chandi

says:

This was very helpful. I was als thinking that teaching multiple children this system would take too much time.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Chandi,
I am glad to hear you find this helpful. It can take some organization, but All About Reading and All About Spelling can work with multiple children. Please let us know if you have any questions or concerns.

Shannon

says:

I love all the helpful tips about how to occupy kiddos that aren’t actively being taught and how to organize all the AAS resources! Thank you!
Now, what do you recommend as far as how many copies of the student book I need and how many copies of the card-stock “flash cards”? I am starting all 3 of my kiddos with the same level…unless you think that is crazy! :)
(We have done no official spelling yet and I don’t want any gaps as we progress)

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Shannon,
We have a blog post that discusses the considerations of Teaching Mulitple Kids Together.

We do recommend that each student can have his own set of cards so that you will be able to tailor each student’s review. One student may need extra practice with particular Phonogram (yellow) Cards, while another may need practice certain Word (green) Cards.

You may be able to teach your children together as a group, especially if they are close in ability so they will need to progress at more or less the same pace. All of them would review everything until it’s mastered, meaning if two children had mastered a card but one hadn’t, you would keep reviewing it until the third child got it as well.

Children who have dyslexia, vision processing issues, any kind of learning disability, or struggles for other reasons, should have their own materials packet and it shouldn’t be passed on to a sibling or shared until they have completed the program. These students tend to need lots of review, and may need to review mastered cards weekly or monthly to retain concepts. In this case, you can see how review for two or more students would get confusing with only one packet. The review is a crucial part of making the program successful, so you want the set-up to make that as easy as possible for you and your children.

When in doubt, start with one packet as you can always order more later.

Lastly, the All About Reading Activity Book is reusable if you find a way to keep all the pieces together after the activities have been cut apart. Many people use sheet protectors in a binder for that. Also, we allow original purchasers to photocopy any or all of it for use with their immediate family.

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

Shannon

says:

Thank you very much!

guatejen

says:

I need all the tips I can get about juggling… I have an 8 year old who reads 750 page books in a day or two, a 6 year old who is struggling through basic cvc words, a 4 year old who could care less about school, and a 2 year old who has taught himself most letters and sounds! (plus a 1 year old and a baby on the way!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Congratulations on the baby on the way!

It does sound like you are juggling a lot. Hopefully, you will find the tips here helpful.

Adebukola

says:

Wow! Amazing! I’m learning a lot in such a short time myself.

Erica

says:

Some great tips here, thanks for sharing

Justina Roth

says:

Love reading these blogs!

Justina Roth

says:

Love to get more books!

Catherine

says:

Love that each child can be at their own level and still you can keep all the tiles on the magnet board….. whenever my daughter says what sound is that one, I say…. that’s what you get to learn later! She likes looking ahead!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Catherine,
My younger children get excited about the tiles they will learn later too! :D

JSmith

says:

I think this will be a good way to see if my 11yo is really following concepts by having her ‘teach’ her younger sister. AAR/SAD have been such a gift to her confidence!

Jo Ann Balisan

says:

for my little brothers 💕

Amity Johnson

says:

I have been looking at all about reading and spelling for a while now

I’m excited to learn about All About Spelling as we are looking for an exciting new spelling program to implement in our curriculum.

lindsey

says:

such great tips

Carissa

says:

Thank you for the information regarding fluency solutions.

Kristen

says:

My kids and I love all about reading and all about spelling!

Andrea

says:

Great tips on teaching multiple kids!

Amy Bratteli

says:

Thanks for posting this! I’m very interested in All About Spelling

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