Can Anybody Teach Riggs?

Derived from the experiences of master teachers and the findings of Dr. Samuel Orton, a neuropathologist who studied how the brain works to learn language skills, the Riggs Institute’s Writing and Spelling Road to Reading and Thinking (“Riggs”) is a curriculum for teaching the subskills of spelling, reading, and writing in a nondiscriminatory, integrated, and cost-effective way, so teaching Riggs may look radically different from what some teachers may feel comfortable with. It may not be a good fit for every teacher. (Though all students thrive in a well-taught Riggs classroom.)

A Riggs classroom looks different because Riggs students learn--and practice--skills differently. Since they use only paper, pencil, a blank notebook, and their minds to master penmanship, spelling, reading, and writing skills under a teacher's direct instruction, they are engaged in highly-relevant tasks throughout the day, which means that their teachers are also engaged in such tasks. So Riggs teachers are people who are willing to work hard to help students build skill upon skill.)

Riggs classrooms look different because Riggs teachers teach differently. For example, instead of using little "books" and other consumable resources (like worksheets or other handouts), and instead of using mostly visual teaching methods, Riggs teachers use student-created resources (including graphic organizers and reference notebooks) and multisensory teaching methods to teach basic (and advanced) skills and concepts. They deliberately create independent learners, and they meet the learning needs of visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learners simultaneously. This accelerates the learning process while preventing and correcting reading disabilities within the classroom community. (Riggs teachers become developmental reading specialists.)

While any literate person is of course free to use any part of the Riggs program as they wish, we recommend that they teach it to produce optimal results for all learners. This means teaching Riggs lessons as they were designed to be taught, in their regular order, and at the pace suggested (see text for how to adapt the program for different grade levels). For example, teaching Riggs to first-grade children* means:

  • Having extremely high expectations for all students
  • Teaching at least one Riggs lesson per day*
  • Dividing the recommended 2.5 hours of daily Riggs time into smaller chunks
  • Having students practice their Riggs lessons throughout the day
  • Having students practice their Riggs lessons until they have mastered them
  • Having students practice Riggs while working in other subject areas
  • Having students produce outstanding written work on a daily basis
  • Assessing students daily to individualize instruction
  • Assessing students daily to keep students on the edge of challenge
  • Eliminating all “fluffy” or “fuzzy” learning activities
  • Eliminating the use of worksheets
  • Having students practice skills to the point of fluency (accuracy + speed)
  • Following the Ten Rules for Preventing Reading Failure

Riggs can be taught by anyone who is willing to learn how to teach it, and the Riggs Institute exists to help teachers teach it. For those who are looking for a finely-sequenced series of well-designed lessons to teach the subject matter of English in a way that makes learning accessible to all students (closing the achievement gap), Riggs is the best of the best.

Although I've been looking for a better program for twenty years, I have yet to find one, and I have never heard of a Riggs student (somebody being taught by a teacher who is using this program as designed) who could not learn to write, spell, read, and think with the help of this method. It's a complete curriculum for teaching the elementary language arts. 


*Some kindergarten teachers teach more slowly (about ½ lesson per day), and teachers of older students generally move through the initial Level I lessons as quickly as possible (while focusing on mastery), jumping into more advanced Riggs lessons once students acquire a firm foundation.


When starting to teach this at home to my kindergarten how long should I teach each time we sit down? Should I teach longer if he is really interested or still take it slow so I dont go to fast and wear him out?

Submitted by Erin Wilmoth (not verified) on Thu, 03/20/2014 - 18:38

Hello, Ms. Wilmoth. You will need to use your judgment regarding how long to work. Short periods are needed at first--divide your work time with many breaks--but as your child's finger muscles strengthen, you will be able to work for at least 30 minutes without taking a break, which I recommend doing. I like to divide each day's work into three separate sessions, which works well for us.

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