Why Do I Need Daily Spiral Review? - Spiral Warmups

Why Do I Need Daily Spiral Review?

Memory, Reading Gaps, Spelling with Daily Spiral Review

Why is that you can teach your heart out, but next year the students seem as if they’ve never “heard it” before?

The problem was not your teaching. You engaged them. They practiced it. They understood it.

The problem is long-term retention. The solution is consistent, research-based spiral review. It’s just how the brain works.

In this post, you’ll find the reasons and research behind:

  1. Three Memory Processes
  2. Why Spiral Review for Word Study
  3. Fill Gaps with Daily Spiral Review


3 Memory Processes Research and Learning

Three Memory Processes

The first memory process is encoding – the act of turning learning experiences into understandings in the brain. This is what happens during that teaching moment, and it can also occur during the practice.

Retention is the process of storing and organizing “stuff” they’ve encoded from their short-term memory to their long-term memory.

This is what we assess- can students remember and apply what they previously learned? It’s the third memory process, and arguably the most important to be able to do well.

What do these memory processes mean for learning? How can we impact them?

To find out the research and teaching advice, you can dig into this previous post:

Spiral Review Research: 3 Memory Processes

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Why Spiral Review for Word Study

Spelling, and more importantly, word knowledge is critical to reading success. Early elementary teachers already know this, but the problem arises as we move into upper elementary.

In upper elementary, we move into a heavy focus on comprehension – and rightfully so.

Spiral review is the perfect place to build this automaticity as reading comprehension instruction takes center stage.

However, many students do not build adequate proficiency with their word knowledge. Word knowledge includes decoding skills, word recognition, spelling, and word meaning.

Proficiency involves knowing it so well that decoding occurs rapidly – with automaticity. Spiral review is the perfect place to build this automaticity as reading comprehension instruction takes center stage.

“More than 20 different skills predicted future decoding performance, and that the three most important predictors were letter identification, phonemic awareness, and rapid automatized naming (RAN).” p.19, Elwer

Spelling, Predictor of Reading Comprehension

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Daily Spiral Review Fills Gaps in Reading Skills

Fill Gaps with Daily Spiral Review

By upper elementary and even into middle school, many students have large gaps in their reading skills. They learn to cope, but they never fully learn the skills.

Often, we find that students’ reading levels stall drastically around DRA 30-40. Their reading skills aren’t a problem in 1st- and 2nd-grades, but as words and texts become more complex, the gaps become easy to spot.

Many students have large gaps in their reading skills. They learn to cope, but they never fully learn the skills.

Many 5th- and 6th-grade teachers are left scratching their heads, “How did these kids make it this far?”

Well, the learned coping skills, but didn’t address the gaps in their word knowledge and reading skills. Among those gaps are:

  • Lack word skills, so they rely on context and guessing.
  • Have a slower reading rate.
  • Often miscue when decoding longer words.
  • Focus on decoding rather than comprehension.
  • Skip complex words and some portions of text.
  • Lack the resources to monitor their own comprehension.

5 Reason Your Students Need Daily Spiral Review

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Thanks for reading, and I hope you found plenty of reasons to begin implementing a daily spiral review into your literacy routine.

If I left you with any questions or new learnings, please share in the comments below!


Elwer, A. (2014). Early Predictors of Reading Comprehension Difficulty

Reed, D. K. (2016). The Contribution of Vocabulary Knowledge and Spelling to the Reading Comprehension of Adolescents who are and are not English Language Learners.

Little, C.W., Hart, S.A., (2016). Examining the Genetic and Environmental Associations Among Spelling, Reading Fluency, Reading Comprehension.

  • Cassie says:

    I know students have large reading gaps in upper elementary, but what do you mean by they “learn to cope”? Is that a good thing?

    • Admin says:

      Coping skills refer to using reading strategies in an “unbalanced” way. For example, a student who is missing word knowledge might not be able to decode or know the meaning of a multisyllabic word. Instead, the student uses context or questioning strategies to make inferences about the meaning. Sometimes that’s a great thing, but sometimes the gap is too large and meaning falls apart.

      Research has shown over and over that a major reason students in middle misunderstand or can’t comprehend text is because of inaccurate guessing strategies.

  • Jill N says:

    Thanks for this post. I’ve heard about spelling being a predictor. Do you have a spelling test as a part of the membership?

  • Jorge says:

    Thanks for sharing this info! Works well with a book study I’m on.

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