Search Blog 

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

Share This:

< Previous Post  Next Post >

Leave a Reply



I get so much from your blog posts. THey are the bits of information that keep up a steady flow – not overwhelming, but encouraging! Like your funnel model! Thanks!


says: Customer Service

You’re welcome, Sarah! So glad the blog posts are helpful. Love your observation about them coming at a steady flow like the funnel!



Now that I read it. It makes sense. Small nuggets that sink in as opposed to many which get clogged. Interesting and excellent. And also encouraging!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you, J.M. I’m pleased to hear this was also encouraging!

Mama Bear


This is very helpful – thank you!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome!

Shala Billings


Thank you for this post. Great concept. I love this program.



This post provided great insight! It was also a good reminder to slow down and not to overload my children information.



This is such a helpful concept!

Elizabeth Martin


This was such a good reminder to me to slow down and make sure I’m not overwhelming my children with too much information (especially as it pertains to spelling).

Gargi Bhatnagar


Thanks for sharing such helpful tips on teaching! It’s so helpful to get a structured approach when teaching kids. My 6 yr old learnt to read and loves the stories so much! He keeps admiring the books, one of his favorite’s, ‘cobweb the cat’. Thank you AAR.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome, Gargi. I love that one of your child’s favorite books is Cobweb the Cat!

McKayla Dippold


I definitely fall into the habit of trying to stuff as much in as possible because I want him to have a wide variety of “learning.” Remembering to slim it down and focus on concepts to build on is something I have to remind myself frequently.

Melissa F


Great reminder on making sure to not overload too many concepts when teaching our kids! I love how AAR breaks down reading into small parts with lots of hands on learning to practice and build upon.



such a great piece of info ! Definitely needed this reminder

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I’m glad this was helpful for you, Jess!

Justina Sliter


We love All About Reading & Spelling! Thank you for giving my children such great confidence in reading!



Such a helpful tip and great reminder!



This was very helpful. I tend to overflow the funnel to get the lesson done tto be able to move onto the next lesson.

Crystal Ogden


This is awesome information for every area of learning, not just reading and spelling. Thank you.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome, Crystal.

Heather J


Oh thank you for this! Patience is something I need to work on!



Such interesting insights!



This is very helpful.

Sarah Thomas


This is so helpful! I have never thought about the “funnel.” The grouping of concepts is going to help my son and me so much.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I’m glad this is helpful, Sarah.

Rachel T.


Good tips!

Sofiya Skachko


This was very helpful in the way I teach reading and spelling.



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.