If you are an elementary school teacher, then you know all too well that spelling words are a huge part of your curriculum and teaching strategies. For many of you, Mondays are the day that you teach the new words, then send your students home with a list to study and practice for Friday’s big spelling test. However, writing a word three times over or using it in a sentence each week can get extremely boring for students. To help add a little variety to your students’ regular spelling routine, we have come up with some incredibly fun new teaching strategies to make spelling homework a little less boring. Here are 25 creative and interactive teaching strategies to practice spelling words.
25 Spelling Homework Teaching Strategies
Many teachers like to use a Tic Tac Toe board as a means to help students practice their spelling words. On Monday, after you have taught students the new words for the week, you can send them home with spelling Tic Tac Toe. To create the board, you need to make a 3x4 grid. This is larger than a regular Tic Tac Toe board, because if you want students to practice spelling each night of the week for Friday’s test, then this will allow students to choose one task each night for four consecutive nights. Write down a different spelling activity in each square on the grid for students to choose from. Your students’ goal is to get four in a row (Tic Tac Toe), either up and down, left to right, or diagonal. Here are a few spelling homework activities that you can add to the squares on the grid.
ABC Order – Write your words in alphabetical order.
Letters – Write your words as many times as there are letters in the word using a fancy pen.
Colorful Words – Use two different colors to write the spelling words -- one color for the vowels and one color for the consonants.
Create a Fortune Teller – Create a spelling word fortune teller out of paper and spell the word out loud.
Rainbow Words – Write each spelling word with a different color crayon or pencil.
Computer Words – Type each spelling word on the computer using a different color and font.
Finger Tracing – Use your finger to spell out each word one letter at a time on your mom or dad’s hand. Then, have your mom or dad try it on you so you can guess what the word is.
Rainbow Colors – Use all of the colors in the rainbow to trace each word on your spelling list.
Cool Whip Words – Take a cookie sheet and spread cool whip all over it. Then, use your finger to write each spelling word.
Words in Words – Write down each spelling word, then write one word made from each word.
Timed Words – Set a timer for two minutes. See how many times you can write the spelling words in the time allotted.
Spelling Memory – Write each spelling word twice on a flashcard, so if you have 10 spelling words, you will now have 20 flashcards. Place the cards face down and play spelling memory.
Spelling Song – Write a song using as many spelling words as you can.
Word Stories – Write a short story using all of your spelling words at least once.
Search and Find – Use a newspaper and highlight as many spelling words as you can find.
Snap and Spell – Snap each letter, then snap for each whole word.
Scramble – Choose five spelling words and write them down letter by letter. Then cut the letters up and scramble them to spell each word.
Acting Out Words – Find a parent or a friend and act out each word. When they get it correct, spell them the word you acted out.
Military Words – For each word that you spell, you must do a jumping jack or a push up.
Train Words – Write each word on the list as one big word, using a different color for each word.
Volcano Words – Make volcano words by adding one letter to each line. Do this for each word on your list.
Piping Words – Use pipe cleaners to spell each word. Once you have spelled one word, reuse your pipes to form the next word, and so on.
Play-Doh Words – Roll out some Play-Doh so it’s flat. Then use a pencil to make dot letters to spell out each word.
Find and Define – Look each word up in the dictionary and read what it means.
Rhyming Words – Write down two words that rhyme with each spelling word on the list.
Children benefit from using their spelling words over and over again. The more they use them, the faster they will learn to spell them. Plus, by using a variety of different activities, you will be able to reach every type of learner in your classroom.
Do you have any special teaching strategies to make spelling homework more fun? Please share your thoughts and ideas in the comment section below, we would love to hear what you do in your classroom.
Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. 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, as well as a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com and TeachHUB Magazine. You can follow her at Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, or on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators.
Question: If a student is allowed to misspell the word “two” during math, social studies and science, and only has to spell it correctly on her spelling test, which version is she most likely to remember?
Answer: The one that gets the most repetition.
That certainly is my experience. Humans learn a lot – right or wrong – by repetition.
And one more question: Would you allow a child to make a math error or misstate a scientific fact while writing? For example:
“John and I each put five eggs on the small raft and pushed it into the river. Upstream, Kari removed the dozen eggs and placed them carefully into an egg carton.”
Well, of course we would point out these errors. Why? Because these errors distract the reader from the meaning of the story and diminish the writing.
So why allow poor spelling in a written math explanation to detract from the logic and meaning of an otherwise insightful response?
Ultimately, people have to apply everything they learned in school in a cross-functional way; employers don't divide tasks into “writing” and “math”… they just expect the quarterly sales report to be accurate in all regards.
Holding students accountable for all subject areas at all times is just one more thing that will get them ready to be successful, employable adults. Spelling is communication. Our job is to teach students to communicate well.
Of course, we practice the words daily during our Monday through Thursday lesson plan and (we hope!) the students practice at home with fun newsletter activities, online spelling games or a spelling worksheet.
The process I describe here is in addition to all of that.
The teacher's role
As with any subject area, individualizing is the key to rapid student progress… this is where you come in. Tracking the challenges that each child is experiencing with spelling patterns allows you to give them the individual attention they need to succeed.
Every year, start each student off with a 3×5 spiral notebook. This is their personal speller and will be a resource for them every day. Into this notebook go the words they miss from the weekly spelling tests, as well as words they misspell from any subject area. This might include:
- math explanations
- science observations
- writing samples
- … and more: any written work
And how do words get into this little speller? First, they are tracked on a simple sheet like this:
I have these pre-printed and ready to go each week so it is easy to note missed words as I come across them on any student papers. Then they end up in the speller in one of two ways:
1. Usually, I ask all students to turn in their notebooks on Friday. I add the words to their spellers and hand them back.
2. Sometimes, if there are just a few words and I trust the student to add them correctly, I will write them on a sticky note and ask them to take care of it.
Individualizing and empowering
As you can see from the image above, some kids end up with more words than others. Be mindful of individual differences between children and sensitive to how much they can handle. I'm referring to the extremes here, not just run-of-the-mill-need-practice poor spellers. A classic example is a child with an IEP for speech.
Students who see the school speech therapist (or speech language pathologist) have a very difficult time with spelling since they cannot accurately sound out words. In this instance, it makes sense to limit the number of words that go into this child's notebook so as not to overwhelm her.
Focus on the most common words, the ones she will use in everyday writing, and move on to more complex words after those are mastered.
Another idea for teachers: If we are having a whole-class practice session to fill a few spare minutes, I'll grab a speller and give one or two children individual teacher quizzing to keep it interesting.
The student's role
Students love practicing spelling words and patterns if the process is approached correctly. That's why the kids keep their spellers in their own desks; not only is it a personal reference, they can add their own words any time they want.
Children like to “collect” interesting and challenging words, such as “variable” from science or “constitution” from social studies. I find my kids trading interesting words they find, as if they are sports cards!
And don't forget to give them opportunities to play with their words. Any time they are finished with work they should be allowed to find their student partner of the week and quiz each other. My students can choose between practicing spelling words or practicing math-fact flash cards.
Teach spelling in 15 minutes a day… Seriously!
Just use my day-by-day process and word lists, partner up your kids and follow the plan. It's a big relief from complex spelling lessons!
Give it a look… Year-Long Word Sort Spelling Program.
Although the basics of your spelling program are covered in class if you are following the Monday though Thursday spelling lesson plans, providing spelling homework is important for three good reasons:
- Some kids want to work extra at home to excel and they should be given the opportunity.
- Many parents want to help out with school in some way, and practicing spelling word lists with their children is an ideal method.
The following items will get you started on effective spelling homework ideas.
The words and the pattern or rule of the week are on the back of every weekly classroom newsletter I send home.
In addition to the spelling word lists, I provide interesting ways to practice at home. I also encourage daily involvement to build good homework habits.
Honestly, not all parents respond, but many do and it shows in the progress made by their children.
Here are two ideas for laying out your newsletter:
Examples of fun spelling homework tasks
1. Have your child read the words to you and spell them out loud.
2. Have your child sing the words to you and sing/spell them.
3. Read the words to your child and have them:
- Make up a sentence using the word
- Write the words in nice handwriting
- Spell the word out loud as they write the letters in the air with their toes
4. Have your student write their spelling words in the dirt/sand/snow
5. Go to SpellingCity.com and enter the spelling words. It includes games and practice activities.
Keep it fun!
I often end the spelling homework ideas in my newsletter with this:
“These are great ways to connect with with your child regarding school. Make it fun and the spelling will STICK!”
Worksheets are a great addition to the at-home activities and can reinforce spelling word lists. Select them carefully to be certain that they are grade-level appropriate and mirror the spelling patterns that you are teaching for the week.
Be intentional with spelling worksheets
If you send them home, be sure to set expectations for their completion and then collect them back. Even if they are not entered into the grade book, they need to be reviewed to ensure each student is not struggling with any of the words or practicing them incorrectly.
Give the students descriptive feedback to encourage their growth as spellers/writers.
Using online spelling games for reinforcement
Taking an online spelling test can provide a powerful reinforcement of spelling patterns. Also, like most forms of classroom technology, it is extremely engaging to children – and therein lies its power as an enhancement to your spelling program.
What an online spelling test is not
Spelling games online are not intended to replace your entire school curriculum, or even to form the bulk of your practice or homework. As effective as they can be, they lack some important factors:
One-on-one teacher time. You know, the reason kids come to school every day! Turning kids loose on computers without the eyes and ears of the teacher tuned in to their activities is a certain recipe for lack of progress.
Classroom community building. Sorting words with their partner of the week, doing flash cards, laughing about funny science words together… all of these activities reinforce your classroom community, which pays dividends in all content areas.
Students sitting in little silos at their computers with headphones on won't get the same benefit.
SpellingCity has options you can check out – but some activities require the paid version.