5 Ways to Customize Reading and Spelling Instruction
by Marie Rippel
Teaching a child to read and spell is not a “one size fits all” proposition.
Every child is unique. Consider for a moment all the things that make children different from each other. Does your child learn quickly? Or does he have special learning challenges? Does he have a limited attention span? Does he need more (or less) review to help concepts “stick”?
In this article, you will discover five ways to individualize instruction according to your child’s specific needs—making reading and spelling easier.
“Off-the-Rack” Curriculum Doesn’t Work for Everyone
Growing up, my kids were polar opposites.
My daughter was a natural reader and speller, while my son really struggled. Early on, it became obvious that in order to effectively teach them both, I would need to individualize their lessons.
My daughter, Megan, needed a fast pace. She didn’t require much review; once she learned a reading or spelling concept, she remembered it.
My son, Scotty, on the other hand, needed something that worked with his logical, analytical brain. When it came to learning to read and spell, he needed lots of review. He needed a mastery-based program instead of a grade-level-based one. And to reach the next level, he needed “scaffolding.” (Don’t panic! If you’re not sure what scaffolding is, keep reading!)
To top it all off, Megan was a visual learner, while Scotty needed input through all of his senses. When I said they were polar opposites, I wasn’t kidding! And many of you are in the same boat that I was in…desperately trying to make your reading and spelling curriculum work for all your children, despite their very different learning needs.
But I’m a problem solver by nature, so I decided to meet this challenge head on.
When I developed All About Reading and All About Spelling, I turned my “wish list” into a “to do” list. One of my main “to dos” was to make sure that the curriculum was easy to customize without requiring a lot of extra effort from the teacher. So how did I do that?
Five Features Make Our Programs Customizable
Before I began developing the curriculum, I identified five features that would help parents easily adapt reading and spelling instruction to their child’s individual needs. A huge benefit of the All About Reading and All About Spelling programs is that each of these elements is built right into the curriculum.
- “Scaffolding” to reach the next level
- A multisensory approach
- Customized review
- Motivating activities
- Adjustable pace
How can your child benefit from these features? Let’s take a look!
Use Scaffolding to Support Your Child’s Learning
If you’ve never heard of scaffolding as it relates to learning, please don’t skip this section, because scaffolding is really important.
Have you ever seen construction workers on the side of a building, perched high above the sidewalk? Scaffolding is the temporary framework that supports the workers, allowing them to work on parts of the building that they wouldn’t be able to reach otherwise.
In the learning process, scaffolding works in a similar way. Scaffolding creates the structure that allows children to gradually build toward higher levels of understanding and greater levels of independence in the learning process. Every child’s learning scaffolding is built to meet his or her individual needs…never too high and never too fast.
In All About Reading, scaffolding is provided in every lesson. For example:
- We use decodable books that contain only words that the child has learned.
- Graphic organizers help structure new information.
- The teacher models how to use expression while reading.
- Syllable tags are used until students recognize the various syllable types.
Here are examples of how scaffolding is used in All About Spelling:
- We use letter tiles to practice the spelling rules.
- We use controlled word lists at first, and then mix up the various concepts.
- Dictation sentences contain only the words that have been previously taught.
- Only one concept is taught per lesson so your child can really focus on one concept at a time.
Then, just as scaffolding is eventually removed from a building, we gradually fade out this extra support until your student reaches the point where he no longer needs it.
Customize with a Multisensory Approach
When you teach with a multisensory approach, you aren’t “stuck” with just one way to teach something. In a multisensory approach, every concept is taught through all three major pathways to the brain (sight, sound, and touch).
The pie chart shows a rough breakdown of how many kids are visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learners.
If your child learns best by doing, he’s a kinesthetic learner and will benefit from extra hands-on work with the letter tiles. If he learns best by seeing, he’s a visual learner and will get a lot out of seeing you demonstrate how to divide words into syllables. And if he learns best by hearing, he’s an auditory learner and will benefit from hearing you demonstrate things, such as how to read character dialogue.
You can learn more about our multisensory approach here.
Now let’s look at another great way to customize your child’s reading and spelling lessons.
Adapt “Review Time” to Your Child’s Needs
Review is another big area where you can customize your child’s instruction. Some kids need more review for information to stick, while others need much less. All About Reading and All About Spelling have seven review strategies built right into the lessons, and every one of them can be tailored to your child’s needs.
You can read about the seven ways we review to help information stick, but as an example, here is a quick demo showing how the Reading Review Box is used to customize your child’s review.
Now let’s move on to the fourth feature that makes AAR and AAS customizable.
Tailor Instruction with Motivating Activities
Your child doesn’t need to be “bookish” to enjoy learning with our programs. The wide range of activities is motivating for many kids, making it easy to grab your child’s attention. Whether your child is an animal lover, digs race cars, or is into pirate stories and activities, there is something for everyone.
You can use your child’s unique interests to easily expand on the lessons, too! (“Let’s take out more lizard books from the library!” or “Let’s play that race car game again tomorrow with a different set of words!”)
Adopt a Pace that Works for Your Child
Does your child need a faster pace? No problem! Or do you need to slow down? You can do that, too!
Since our programs are mastery-based instead of grade-level-based, you are free to introduce new material at whatever pace is best for your child. Anna Gillingham, one of the founders of the Orton-Gillingham approach, put it this way: “Go as fast as you can, but as slow as you must.”
Your Child Can Shine with Individualized Lessons!
And to me, that’s what it’s all about! Every child is different, and I believe that curriculum should make your job easier as you meet your child’s individual needs.
How has homeschooling allowed you to individualize your child’s lessons? Please share in the comments below!
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