By Sue Drury
Last updated 05 August 2020
Being able to spell accurately is an important life skill. It can even be a make or break issue for adults who are trying to impress bosses, clients or potential employers. More immediately, of course, it is a key aspect of the English curriculum and is rightly a focus for assessment.
Once pupils have gained a good grasp of phonics, they are then let loose on the full gamut of words in the English language.
Plenty of these can be spelled correctly just by using phonics skills but many either do not follow taught rules (common exception words) or present a choice between graphemes that could represent the same sound.
High-quality teaching will go a long way towards securing competent spelling skills but there is always the challenge of making it engaging. Here are some ideas for putting fun into spelling.
Rhymes spelling activities
Over the years, you will no doubt have picked up some tricks and techniques for remembering certain spellings. For example, there are old favourites such as “i before e except after c when the sound rhymes with key,” or something similar (although that rule is littered with irritating exceptions). Perhaps, along with your class, you could invent some of your own for particular letter strings.
Mnemonics for remembering the correct spelling
Another fun way to remember certain spellings is to use mnemonics. A particularly good one is “big elephants can always understand small elephants” for spelling because. Challenge your pupils to think of their own ones for words they find tricky.
Spelling rule clues
There are also lots of little tricks for remembering spelling patterns, such as pronouncing them the way they are written rather than how they are said. Encourage pupils to pronounce the t in often, for example, even if they wouldn’t normally. Similarly, there are little catchphrases they could use like saying “o u would if you could,” or “o u are in the house,” to help them remember the ou letter string. A simple internet search will reveal that there are many other examples around but it can be more memorable to make up your own.
Word games and spelling games
The real fun comes when you can turn spelling into a game. Hangman is an obvious example and the sheer fact that it is rather gruesome tends to make it all the more appealing to children. The main drawback with hangman, however, is that it relies on one of the players being able to spell the word correctly in the first place, so providing a list of spellings you want them to focus on, such as statutory spelling words, would be wise.
Spelling games – Crosswords
Another old favourite is the crossword. This has the added benefit of helping pupils to tie the meaning of the word to its spelling. We offer a range of attractively designed crosswords based on words from the statutory word lists for Years 3 and 4 as well as Years 5 and 6.
Spelling games – Bingo!
Who can resist a game of Bingo? Why not make it work for you by making it a spelling game rather than using numbers? Obviously, this can take a bit of time to set up by yourself, but you can save yourself the bother by using our ready-made resources for Year 4? These can be used in small groups or as a whole class and involve one person calling out words from a list. However, in our version, it is not as straightforward as simply looking for the same word. If the pupils have a word on their cards that contains the same spelling pattern as the word they hear, they should write that word under the corresponding one on their cards. When they’ve completed a whole row, they can call “Bingo!” And the good news is, we have packs for every year group from 2-6!
Crafty classroom spelling word game
You don’t even have to focus on whole words. It is often very helpful to explore specific spelling patterns, including prefixes and suffixes. We offer a fun craft activity for Year 3 children which involves cutting out and constructing spinners that rotate a set of root words or other letter strings so that they match up with a particular word element. As a result, a whole set of new words appears before them, teaching them how these elements combine to create words.
Fun spelling game for rhyming
For younger students, we offer a range of games and resources including rhyming snap. This attractive set of word cards exercises the important phonic skill of identifying rhymes by means of the evergreen favourite game of snap.
Of course, one of the unavoidable realities of learning to spell is assessment, not least the spelling element of the Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling SATs. While there is mixed evidence as to whether spelling tests are an effective way of teaching children to spell, it will help pupils to do justice to themselves if they are familiar with the format of the SATs spelling tests so do find the time to let your class practise these before the big day.
We hope that has given you some interesting ideas to play around with. Don’t forget, you can get all these resources and more through Plazoom. In fact, while you’re at it, why not check out our entire Grammar Games collection? There are 47 resource packs covering all ages and abilities so there’s bound to be something that meets your needs, leaving you more time to go out and have some fun yourself!