Precision Teaching

Precision Teaching For Children & Youth

By Elizabeth Haughton, MA, © Copyright 2008.

Precision Teaching Has Helped Kids With

  • Reading
  • Spoken and written language
  • Spelling
  • Handwriting
  • Arithmetic
  • Mathematics
  • Physical coordination

Precision Teaching Can Help In The Following Areas

Spirit: Confidence is built through the child’s awareness of his/her progress.

Body: Physical skills can improve if they are a goal for Precision Teaching.

Mind: The primary focus of Precision Teaching is the increase in the intellectual and expressive aspects of an individual.

Emotion: Children feel secure knowing that their progress is built on solid success. Many become more at ease.

Social: Social skills appear to improve with the confidence that results from Precision Teaching work.

Brief Description Of Precision Teaching

  • Precision Teaching is a learning system that helps children & youth who have a difficult time focusing, learning, and achieving their goals.
  • Precision Teaching does this by providing continuous, minute-by-minute monitoring and feedback of progress to students and teachers.
  • This is accomplished by pinpointing skills, charting progress, and analyzing learning pictures.
  • Fluency aims are used to guarantee retention, endurance, and application of skills.
  • Students set fluency aims, chart their progress, achieve “personal bests,” and celebrate their learning.

Success With Precision Teaching

  • Albert was nine years old and could not read. We worked on his ability to process sounds in words, to understand and retain what he heard. He was carefully taught phonemic awareness and a systemic multi-sensory phonics program. Within two years he was up to grade level. He is now an above-average reader.
  • Terry was a six year old boy with Cerebral Palsy symptoms, who was unable to write. Doctors felt his lack of muscle control would never allow him to do so. He needed over 1,000 repetitions to do this. Years later, Terry has now finished college. He easily writes about 80 clear letters a minute.
  • Stephanie, an eight year old girl, was diagnosed as having Dyslexia. She could not learn to read. She was also having behavior problems in school. Precision Teaching work revealed that her real problem was remembering the order of visual symbols and tracking from left to right. Using Precision Teaching tutoring on her rapid automatic naming (RAN), phonics and reading-in-context skills, Stephanie was eventually able to work easily at grade level. As her school performance improved, so did her behavior. She is now in college and doing well.

Precision Teaching Is Appropriate For Ages

  • Four through adult

Children & Youth’s Reactions To Precision Teaching

  • Students want to practice because they enjoy reaching their personal best.
  • Children & youth get excited about the learning experiences because of the immediate feedback.
  • Most have an immediate boost of confidence.
  • Children & youth are enthusiastic and excited about reaching their personal aims.
  • Children & youth learn to be good decision-makers.
  • Older children & youth often say things like, “This is the first program that really helps me. I can see the charts that show I’m improving.”

Extra Care Is Needed

  • If the child has severe emotional problems

Contraindications: When Precision Teaching Should Be Avoided

  • Problems can occur when teachers have not been properly trained to do the whole method. In such cases, children & youth can feel pressured, and the method will not work.
  • Children & youth who feel extremely pressured need to have control of the time period.


  • Precision Teaching has been in use for 30 years.
  • Developed by Dr. Ogden Lindsley and Dr. Eric Haughton, professors of Psychology at Kansas University, it uses principles from psychology in humane ways.
  • Lindsley and Haughton trained many graduate students on how to use Precision Teaching.
  • Many applications have been developed.

Basic Concepts And Components Of Precision Teaching

  • Precision Teaching holds that very strong basic skills are needed as a foundation for any future learning.
  • Precision Teaching holds that learning is a step-by-step, task-by-task process.
  • Precision Teaching builds skill levels purposefully, moving carefully from one expertly planned learning task to the next task - only as mastery is achieved.
  • Children’s performance of their “personal best” is timed and/or counted as they work toward specific learning aims.
  • Each student’s performance is thoroughly analyzed to understand and pinpoint exactly where the problems are occurring.
  • The measuring and charting of the child’s progress builds the child’s confidence and, as a result, their future performance is made easier.
  • Precision Teaching is not like standardized tests, as standardized tests do not measure daily performance.
  • Research has shown that auditory processing delays (hearing, understanding, and remembering what has been heard) are a primary cause of problems in reading, language, and spelling. These problems kill confidence, which in turn causes more problems (many children are misdiagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder). Precision Teaching is extremely effective in dealing with these problems.
  • After foundation skills are fluent, time and effort must be spent catching up any missed skills and knowledge so students can use their full potential.

Description Of A Typical Session

  • The student and the teacher work one-on-one.
  • The student does tasks in the area under study while the tutor times, charts, and evaluates to see if more practice is needed before moving to the next set of tasks.
  • Acknowledgement and celebration of success is very important.

Major Differences Of Opinion Between Precision Teaching Practitioners

  • Goals for fluency performance (Automaticity levels) may differ considerably between practitioners.
  • Use of the Standard Celeration Chart differs between practitioners. (The Standard Celeration Chart is a six-cycle chart which lasts 20 weeks.)

Fees/Costs In 2007

  • The cost is $60 for one hour one-to-one sessions.
  • The cost is $500 for consultation/assessment.
  • Usually 120 to 240 hours are needed.

Average Time Per Session

  • Sessions last one hour to four hours.

Recommended Length Of Time Between Sessions

  • Sessions are recommended at least twice a week.
  • If a student is a year or so behind in school, the intensive summer school is suggested, with four one-hour sessions daily.

Estimated Length Of Time Before Improvements Can Be Expected

  • Attitude change is often noticed immediately.
  • Significant academic change is noticed within twenty hours of Precision Teaching.

Suggestions To Make Precision Teaching More Effective

  • Pay attention to the charts of learning each week. Celebrate learning success and personal best.
  • Become educated on the latest research concerning child development.
  • Make sure the child feels good about the program.
  • Occasionally, observe the tutoring sessions.

Other Methods That Are Similar To Precision Teaching

  • Precision Learning
  • Direct Instruction
  • Precision Measurement
  • Fluency Based Instruction
  • Curriculum Based Measurement

Other Methods That Complement Precision Teaching

  • Vision therapy
  • Physical therapy
  • Speech and language therapies
  • Direct instruction

Nature And Length Of Training To Be A Practitioner

  • 80 hours of training, followed by two years of advising by an experienced Precision Teaching teacher is needed.

Special Training Needed To Work With Children & Youth

  • Participate in conferences; chat room on website for Precision Teaching.
  • Practitioners need to keep investigating and use their data to make decisions.
  • Having a background in education is not necessary.

Certification/Licenses Held By Practitioners

  • There is no standard license given, although some centers may certify their trainees.

Professional Associations To Contact For Names Of Local Practitioners

  • Contact Standard Celeration Society (SCS) (also holds conferences); PO Box 3351; Kansas City, Kansas 66103; Website: www.celeration.org; Email is available through website.

Number Of Certified Practitioners In U.S., Canada, And Mexico

  • There are hundreds - scattered around the continent.

What To Look For When Choosing The Best Practitioner

  • Look for well-trained and caring Precision Teaching practitioners who are able to communicate clearly.
  • Carefully investigate references and claims.

Leading Clinics, Centers, Practitioners

Resources, Research Papers, Books, DVD’s, Websites

  • Go to Fluency.org for hundreds of articles and research papers on Precision Teaching.
  • Binder, Carl. “Behavioral Fluency: Evolution of a New Paradigm.” The Behavior Analyst 19, no. 2 (1996): 163-197.
  • Kubina, RM, Morrison, R. “Fluency in Education.” Behavior and Social Issues 10 (2000): 83-99.
  • Lindsley, Ogden R. “Ten Products of Fluency.” Journal of Precision Teaching and Celebration 13, no. 1 (1995): 2-11.


  • Precision Teaching Fluency Based Curriculum Packets, (2001); Haughton Learning Center, Jackson, CA; order through www.HaughtonLearningCenter.com. (Source for teachers’ manuals, phonics, math, word patterns, etc.)
  • Contact Behavior Research Co., the source of Standard Celeration Charts, books, charts and other materials: www.behaviorresearchcompany.com.
  • Morningside Press; Fluency supplements for core curriculum: www.morningsidepress.org.

Helpful Tips For Parents

  • Work on your child’s strengths and then begin to look at their needs.
  • Make sure that your child develops a strong skill foundation.
  • Make sure they know their phonics, math facts, how to correctly hold their pencil, and how to think independently.
  • Continue to read to your child until they go to college.
  • Help them use more language. Have them describe events, objects, and pictures.
  • Feed them a good diet.
  • Give them a massage once a week. A relaxed child or youth learns better.

Biography Of Elizabeth Haughton, Author

  • Elizabeth Haughton has, for over thirty years, devoted her professional life to providing children and adults with programs that guarantee learning success. Elizabeth is a specialist in teaching academic and language foundation skills to children with special needs.
  • Combining teacher with science, Elizabeth works with students who need development of their visual, auditory, language and motor processing systems. She has put into operation and honed the ground breaking work of Eric Haughton, which demonstrated that learning rates accelerate once a student obtains a certain optimum level of fluency in the basic component skills of reading, math and other academic activities.
  • Elizabeth has trained numerous educators and parents on how to identify a child’s strengths and needs; determine how best a child’s performance can be brought into line with his/her potential; and then implement and measure highly efficient learning programs. She has repeatedly demonstrated that with consistent, dedicated instruction, ongoing measurement, well designed practice materials and the student’s involvement in decision making, learning success is possible for anyone.
  • Elizabeth was a public school teacher in Canada and the USA; director of the Haughton Learning Center in Napa; educational consultant to schools and agencies; teacher trainer; and author. Currently, Elizabeth consults with the Morningside Academy, as well as schools in California, Wisconsin, and New Hampshire.

Elizabeth Haughton’s Personal Statement

Each child has special strengths and needs. It is essential that a child’s potential and school performance match.

If you have concerns about your child’s learning development, it is important to immediately seek help before the family experiences emotional stress. This will prepare everyone for a lifetime of learning success.

To Contact Elizabeth Haughton, Who Contributed This Chapter

Elizabeth Haughton, Director, Haughton Learning Center; 10315 Amador St.; Jackson CA 95642; Ph: 209.257.1613; Fax: 209-257-1613; Website: www.HaughtonLearningCenter.com; Email:elizabeth@haughtonlearningcenter.com

Marie Mulligan’s Comment About Precision Teaching: Precision Teaching helps children & youth master the foundation steps they need for future learning. I hope someday Precision Teaching and programs like it are available to all children & youth.

Rick Geggie’s Comment About Precision Teaching: I first learned of Precision Teaching decades ago. I have remained very impressed with its ability to help challenged children as well as children already doing well who want to increase their performance levels. The expense of the practice is offset by the overall amount of learning time and self-esteem that it saves. Childhood does not last long. The effects of low esteem and poor academic performance can last a lifetime.

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