How the “Funnel Concept” Affects Learning

You may think that a “good memory” is something that your child either has or does not have. If that were the case, there would be little you could do to help your child become a better learner. But fortunately, this isn’t the case! You CAN help your child with her memory if you begin with an understanding of something I call the funnel concept.

What Is the Funnel Concept?

When explaining new concepts and teaching your child, it’s easy to assume that there is an unobstructed pipeline between you.

You explain something—like the concept that every word has a vowel—and you expect that your child will automatically file that nugget of information away and remember it in the future. You assume that since you taught it, your child will “get it” and your work will be done.

For many parents, this picture is far from reality. Too often, it seems that lessons go right over the child’s head … that nothing sticks.

Instead of picturing information going through an unobstructed pipeline, it’s more accurate to picture information passing through a funnel, like this:

Water pouring from pitcher into a funnel

If you pour too much water into a funnel too quickly, what happens? The water overflows the top of the funnel, right?

A similar thing happens when we try to teach too much at a time. You can pour a lot of information in, but your child’s memory becomes overloaded and dumps the excess. You lose control over what actually makes it through the funnel.

This is what we call the funnel concept.

too much content going into a funnel

Now that you understand what the funnel concept is, let’s look at how to apply it to your teaching.

The Three Outcomes of Teaching

When you teach, there are three possible outcomes:

  • No learning—when nothing at all sticks.
  • Fragmented learning—when your child remembers some information, but just bits and pieces of the lesson.
  • Meaningful learning—when your child remembers and is able to use or apply the information that you taught.

To reach the goal of meaningful learning, you need to avoid overwhelming your child’s funnel.

How to Avoid Overloading Your Child’s Funnel

To apply this concept in a practical way, let’s take a look at a common spelling test that focuses on the sound of long I.

Spelling test showing multiple concepts

This list includes the following information:

  • long I spelled Y, as in cry
  • long I spelled with an I in an open syllable, as in item
  • the letter I sometimes says its long sound when followed by two consonants, as in kindness
  • long I spelled IGH, as in light
  • long I spelled IE, as in pie
  • the letter I can be long when it is followed by a consonant and Silent E, as in time

Getting confused yet? Has this list given you information overload? Wait—there’s even more!

This spelling list has two more curveballs:

  • The word timed has suffix ED added, so the child must determine when to keep the Silent E and when to drop it.
  • For the word cried, the child needs to know she must change the Y to an I before adding a suffix beginning with a vowel.

That’s a lot of information for just one spelling list!

Contrast that spelling list with this one:

Spelling test with one single concept

This is an example of the kind of list used in the All About Spelling program. Only one concept is introduced in this spelling list—long I spelled IGH. And that single concept is practiced using multisensory methods—auditory, visual, and kinesthetic.

Now ask yourself: Which spelling list is more likely to get through your child’s funnel and result in lasting learning? It may look better on paper to be covering twenty words at once, but the truth is that your child will achieve more permanent learning when you teach only the amount of information that she can process at one time.

So next time you’re teaching your child, think about teaching through a funnel and introduce just one main concept at a time. You’ll be pleased with the amount of meaningful learning that can occur!

Download This Free E-book to Learn More

Another great way to help your child learn faster is by using schemas. In this free e-book, “Help Your Child’s Memory,” you will discover…

  • What schemas are and how they help improve memory
  • Why information goes right over your child’s head … and what to do about it
  • More about how the funnel concept can improve your teaching and result in long-term learning
  • What simultaneous multisensory instruction is, and why it is such a powerful teaching method

Let me know if this post was helpful to you! Have you experienced “funnel overload” with your kids?

The funnel concept pinterest graphic

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It is what I am looking for. A strategy that will fit for my remedial class.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You’re very welcome, Nora!

Ingrid Marquez


Very helpful information.
We are entering into the 20th century. We need to reinvent the process of teaching.
Kids are leaning faster than ever doing multiple steps. Too much at the same time might over load them.
Long tedious class work sheets that is intended for only target a salary’s teacher. More hours more paid time.
The teaching system was design for working parents that don’t see their kids in all day.
Teaching is about making sense in all topics. I believe has to be a better way. We build society by this model.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you for your insights, Ingrid.

Sam Lineekela


i like this , it is very helpful and i will always like it

Marissa Stewart


Love this method of teaching!!



Ugh. I hate those word lists with so many concepts. Often teachers I work with say the kids should know this by now and I keep saying but not all of them do. So why can’t we just make it more manageable until they have mastered it.



Very helpful information. Thank you so much!



These are great tips. I’m often guilty of pouring too much in the funnel.



Thank you for the download! This was so helpful.

Laurie Emerson


Thank you so much for the information. I had never heard of the Funnel Concept before. It makes so much sense though.



Yes! Very insightful

Yeo Gare Hoon


This is very helpful! Thanks so much



The funnel analogy was so helpful! Thank you!

Beth C.


This is why we love AAS. It really has helped my kids learn and retain information. Their spelling has improved so much. Thank you for designing curriculum with the funnel in mind.



Wow! This was super helpful in the way introduce concepts. I just so excited to teach so much in a school year, but I need to remember to slow down sometimes.

Kathleen Perez


Oh I love this!!!! :)



Love this program,I can highly recommend it!

Jill Schooley


This makes sense! I like how you curriculum is well thought out.

Jennifer Thomas


So thankful for this post and the tools to help me and my child!

Kathryn Rossi


Thank you for the new concept!



This is exactly why I use the All About Spelling program. I’ve used programs before that used words that had all the different spellings for the same sound. It just adds more confusion. All About Spelling is not overwhelming, and I recommend it to my friends.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you for recommending All About Spelling, Karen! I’m glad to hear it is working out so well for you.

Kathy Moya


This has been very helpful! Even for myself the parent. Being taught in a public school and always feeling pressured or rushed when learning the material. I feel like my long term memory has been compromised. I t is not until I revisit topics or lessons on some subjects do I realize how much information I have lost through out the years. I think I was a fragmented learner. Now that I will be homeschooling my daughter I will definitely be using these tips! Thank you for all the wealth of information shared to help families!



Wow something I didn’t know

Sabrina Coluccio


So helpful. Thank You!

Angelica Hurlburt


This has been so helpful!!! Thank you so much for sharing this :)



WOW! I haven’t ever thought of my kids brain like a funnel. This makes total sense.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Glad we helped you think of learning in a new way, Heather!



I love the way AAS teaches the different spelling of various sounds separately. I feel that this is a key element missing in other spelling curricula. It’s just too easy to become overwhelmed when you have to remember all the different ways to spell one sound. AAS gives the student time to commit one way — and several words that utilize that way — to visual memory before asking him to learn a second or third way.


says: Customer Service

Great comment, Whitney!



This would be good for my boys who’s struggle is only spellings

Amanda Depablos


oh I need this!



Thank you very much
I’ll read this topic (thump up)

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome, Shahzalan! ?

Julie Monroe


Your blog is a treasure trove of great information so if parents and teachers think about your methods with the reasoning behind them, they will see how practical they really are. I teach college reading and overload can happen with everyone. Thank you for all you do!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Such a great reminder, Julie! Yes, everyone can get their funnel overfilled.