ABC and 123: A Learning Collaborative: Spelling

Friday, June 3, 2011


As a second grade classroom teacher I struggled with the traditional list, drill, and test method of teaching children to spell. I felt very strongly about students using words and learning to spell in an authentic situation (ie: writing). I would often observe a student spelling the word THEY perfectly on their graded list on Friday AM, but spelling it THAY in their writing that same afternoon. Although much time is spent memorizing specific words that children seemingly struggle to transfer to authentic writing, the reality is that most spelling curriculums still require a test on a specific list of words each week. I did find through interactions with parents that spelling was one of the things they felt most confident working with their child on. There is something about being able to check off what they know and don't know that encouraged parents who otherwise didn't know how to support what was happening in the classroom. My attempts to change the system seemed to be hardest on them. So, instead students were given multiple opportunities to interact with the words, while stimulating many different learning styles, in hopes of helping them apply the correct spellings for the long term.

Here is a collection of suggestions for working with spelling words:

Inspiration Surrounds, Creativity Abounds put together a felt kit to help her child practice her name.  This activity could be varied to practice spelling other things as well.

Sippy Cup Central  practices spelling with picture, word puzzles.  It might take a bit of effort but puzzles could be made for all sorts of sight words. 

Quirky Momma shares a game for learning to spell a name.

2 Teaching Mommies used a rainy day and a set of stairs as an opportunity to get their kids moving and spelling.

Teacher 2 Mom has a great post listing the many spelling activities she used with her first graders throughout each week. The spelling word dance off sounds like a great way to get kids really involved!

A Place to Share suggests a Doug and Melissa Hangman game for reviewing spelling words.  My students used to love when we would play this (although we called it Wheel of Fortune) on the white board during classroom transition times.
What the Teacher Wants offers a downloadable spelling practice grid which she uses for homework.

Beginning Reading Help reminds us to use the familiar magnetic letters or wikki sticks to practice spelling words.
Reasons to Skip the Housework has a teaching tool perfect for practicing spelling: Spelling Math grid.  My son is going to love this option because numbers are more his thing!
The NEA has listed five games for learning to spell unfamiliar words.
School Family uses board games to make spelling more fun.


  1. this is great - my son is visual and tactile - so being able to move the letters by hand is such a plus. We did All About Spelling last year - and he liked touching the letters and moving them.

    great options for homeschoolers!

  2. Oh what a lovely surprise to be featured in this spot. I was doing my daily check in at ABC and 123 and was delighted to see my idea here. Thank you.

    I also enjoyed checking out the other creative ideas you featured.

  3. wonderful ideas! When I taught 1st & 2nd grade I had similar concerns. I always tried to use fun games and interactive hands-on ways to learn the words, like building the words with sticks, writing in shaving cream, letter tiles, making puzzles and even making up songs, etc to name a few. I found that this worked so much better for the long term. Memorization for the test rarely led to a true knowledge of how to spell the word.


  4. Love these ideas! You would love the curriculum and book, "Words Their Way". We used it as a supplement in the school I taught first grade at.