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