How to Engage your Kids with Spelling
Spelling is so often dismissed as a boring topic which can only be taught via tests and repetitive rote exercises. This misconception has resulted in thousands of children giving up on learning how to spell, when in reality the world of spelling can be a lot of fun. There is huge a range of techniques and activities you can use at home or in the classroom to engage your kids in spelling and writing. In fact, they’ll probably be having so much fun that they won’t even realize that they’re learning.
Often, kids start to feel discouraged and even ashamed if they repeatedly have to cross out their answers, or if they see the dreaded ‘red pen’ where the teacher has made corrections. A blank page can be intimidating even to the most advanced of writers, and there’s a distinct permanence to the act of writing a word on paper. When a mistake is made, your child is forced to erase or even cross it out. Remove this daunting aspect from writing and you may find that kids lose their inhibitions and become more willing to risk making mistakes. Incorporating some spelling activities which take children away from traditional writing-based learning can open the door to new opportunities for kids to experiment with letters, without the sometimes paralyzing fear of making mistakes. Let’s have a look at some methods which help to add some excitement to spelling practice for kids.
Some kids have just decided that they don’t like writing, whether it be due to a spelling issue or anything else. Try removing pen and paper from the equation. You can buy plenty of letter shapes in the form of magnets, wooden letters, or painted blocks. If you don’t have the budget for that, just print out some letter flashcards, or better yet get the kids to make their own. These can be used for games based on dictation where you ask them to spell a certain word and they arrange the shapes in the correct order. If there are multiple children present, form them into teams and see who can construct the words the fastest. If you’re doing it one-to-one, use a stopwatch to time the student and see how proud they become as they get quicker. There are infinite ways to adapt letter shapes and keep learning fresh.
The shapes give struggling students a visual cue by showing them several possible answers, giving a ‘multiple choice’ aspect to the exercise. Start with only a few letters and gradually add more for a bigger challenge. When the child makes a mistake, it’s no big deal, they simply exchange the shape for another one – no erasing or crossing out necessary.
Board and Paper Games
Language games have long been popular among adults and children alike. Board games like Scrabble and Boggle are great tools to develop an awareness of spelling as well as vocabulary building and cognitive skills like language plasticity. If these are too advanced for your child, they often have kids versions like Scrabble Junior.
Better yet, make a board game yourself to cater to your child’s individual needs. Draw up a board for ‘snakes and ladders’ where they have to spell a certain word if they land an on a given square. This allows you to choose specific words that you know your child is having trouble remembering. Try a dice game where roll the dice and then choose a word with the same number of letters to spell. For example, if you roll a 4 on the die, you have to spell a word with 4 letters. Add visual or auditory cues as provided, so that students of any level can play.
Hangman is a fantastic spelling based game which children have played among themselves for decades – if they’re doing it already, why not use it to your spelling advantage? To play, one player secretly chooses a word and shows their opponent how many letters it contains. The second player then has to guess letter-by-letter what the word might be. As they accumulate more guesses, the word should become clear – but they have to do it within a certain number of guesses to win.
Some kids’ brains are wired to work on and solve puzzles. This not only develops their critical thinking ability, but can be used for practice spelling, too. For example, a wordsearch forces your child to pay careful attention to the letters in a given word, and also to the letter order. As they search for the word in a grid of random letters they may need to keep referring back to the spelling to make sure they get the correct answer. Wordsearches are also great for letter recognition, one of the basic foundation blocks needed to in order read and write.
Crosswords are another good puzzle for kids’ spelling practice. Clues are presented for the child to discover what word they have to spell. They then have to fit that word into the correct number of squares, guiding them to the right word length. If they need extra help, encourage them to solve the puzzle by looking up the word.
As we enter the technology age, kids are increasingly attracted to computers and mobile devices. Why not boost your child’s education by adding computer-based learning? Kids love the chance to use technology, so they’re likely to jump at the chance to play video games or do quizzes online – you don’t have to tell them it’s educational! There are countless resources for interactive multimedia online. Websites like SpellQuiz engage children in spelling by handing them the power over their own learning. Kids often feel at the mercy of teachers and adults who decided what they will learn and how they will learn it. SpellQuiz not only provides your child with materials like spelling quiz games, but helps them to develop their own learning autonomy and motivation.
Spelling doesn’t have to be limited to just writing out words; incorporate games, sensory activities and physical movement into your repertoire to fully engross your child in literacy. One-to-one activities or games among a group can combine education with fun both at home and in the classroom.