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Activities to Develop Students' Spelling Skills

Janelle Cox

Spelling is a fundamental skill that every child needs to learn in order to successfully write the English language. As teachers, it is our goal to instill these skills in our students so they will develop phonemic awareness, and be able to accurately represent our written language. Here are a few tips and activities for students to strengthen their spelling skills.

Develop Phonemic Awareness

Phonemic awareness is when a child is able to recognize and distinguish the sounds in words and then have the ability to translate these sounds into print. When a student can do this they will have a much easier time learning to spell and read. The perfect activity that will help develop phonemic awareness is to teach rhyming. Any Dr. Seuss book or Llama Llama book by Deborah Guarino are great stories to reinforce rhyming patterns. As you read, point out rhymes and periodically stop and have students try to guess what word is coming next in the rhyme. This will help students develop their phonemic awareness skills which will in turn help them learn to spell.

Learn Spelling Patterns

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It's important for students to learn and practice common spelling patterns. Once students learn these patterns, it will help them achieve spelling success. Explore patterns together by rereading a familiar book and asking students to look for the spelling pattern in the story. There are a million different activities that will help students recognize spelling patterns, one being spelling bingo. Teachers can create a bingo board that focuses on word families (map, cap, tap, nap). Here are a five more activities to help students learn spelling patterns.

  • Play word sort. Discuss the spelling pattern of the week and have students cut out words and sort them.
  • Put up a Boggle board. Each week create a Boggle board that reflects the spelling pattern for that week. The students' task is to create as many words as they can with the letters on the board.
  • Use a plastic egg. Take a plastic Easter egg and, on the left half of the egg, write a few letters, and the on the other half of the egg, write the ending of the word. For example, the left half would be the letters, t,s,p, then the right half would be the ending of the word in. So the students would be able to the turn the egg and see the pattern tin, sin, pin, etc.
  • Go on a word hunt. Have students search through familiar books to look for a particular pattern. For example, after reading the words make, take, ate, discuss the spelling pattern a_e. The students' task is to search their text for this specific pattern.
  • Create an analogy book. If students know that the -at is in the word cat, then they can spell and read mat, fat, bat, etc. Have students create their own analogy books each time they learn a new spelling pattern. Then they can use these books as a reference when reading or spelling unknown words.

Practice Spelling Words

The most effective way for students to develop spelling skills is to have students practice their spelling words. Each week have students write their spelling words at least five times each. Repeatedly writing these words help students build knowledge, enhance learning, and develop their spelling skills. A fun way schools are helping students practice their weekly spelling lists is by having them visit the website (or app) Vocabulary Spelling City. Students can go to this site or app and practice their words by taking practice tests and playing a variety of spelling games. Here are a few more activities to help students practice their spelling words.

  • Spelling stairs. Have students write their spelling word one letter at a time like the example below.

S

Si

Sig

Sigh

Sight

  • Roll the dice. Have students write their spelling word once in pencil. Then they must roll a die to determine how many times they must trace the word with a different colored crayon.
  • Create a story. Students must use all of their spelling words to create a story.
  • Spelling scramble. Students must correctly unscramble all of their spelling words.
  • Newspaper spelling. Each week as part of their spelling practice, students must search a newspaper and highlight each spelling word they find.

The most efficient way for students to develop their spelling skills is to practice, practice, practice! Repetition is the key to achieving spelling accuracy.

Do you have any tips or activities to help students develop their spelling skills? Please share with us in the comment section below!

Janelle Cox is an education writer who draws on her 15 years of professional experience in the education system. Janelle holds a Master's of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com, where she provides educational information and lesson plans for teachers around the globe.