Are you on the hunt for spelling activities that won’t make your students groan? Hey, we get it! Spelling is a crucial skill that helps our students communicate and build the skills they need to be proficient writers, but the structure of the English language doesn’t exactly make it easy for kids to learn.
With thousands of words borrowed from a host of other languages, English spelling is packed with irregularities that make it challenging for young learners. But while it’s true we’re teaching in an age of auto-correct, spell-checking software and dictionaries available with a few swipes of a finger, the fact remains that teaching spelling is as important now as it ever has been.
So how do you get your students on board with learning the complex but fundamental rules that will have them spelling every word just right, every time? Make it fun … of course!
The teachers on the Teach Starter team have created this list of some of our favourite spelling activities and ideas to make stringing letters together just a bit more engaging this school year. Read on for ideas for a number of year levels — including hands-on activities — plus some free printables!
Short on time? This set of task cards is packed with 57 different spelling activities!
Spelling Activities for Primary Students
This spelling twist on the game of basketball requires a small hoop, which you can find at a cheap shop and mount on your whiteboard. Most are available with suction cups, so they can easily be removed. You’ll also need a small ball that can fit in the hoop, plus your spelling word list!
Here’s how it works:
- Print out your list of weekly spelling words on slips of paper, and place each slip into a bowl.
- Line students up in two teams at the hoop.
- The student at the front of line 1 will select a paper slip from the bowl and read the word out loud.
- The student at the front of the other line then has to spell that word out loud. If they get the word correct, they then have a chance to shoot a basket to earn a point for their team before moving to the back of the line. If they are incorrect, they move to the back of the line without making an attempt.
- Play continues with the bowl full of words alternating between teams until you run out of spelling words.
- The team with the most amount of baskets made in wordketball wins!
Looking to enhance students’ understanding of the meaning of their spelling words? You could also challenge students to share the definition of the word to earn a point for their team or read out the definition and challenge students to guess the word before spelling it.
Write Rainbow Words
Give students a list of words, and have them write each word in different colours using markers or crayons. For example, they could write the first letter of the word in red, the second letter in orange, the third letter in yellow, and so on.
Spelling is a skill that relies on visual memory, which is what makes this activity a hit, especially with your Year 1 class.
Writing out the words in different colours can help with memory because it creates a visual association between the word and the colour. The brain processes and remembers visual information better than plain text, so by using different colours to highlight different parts of the word, your students are creating a more memorable visual image.
It doesn’t hurt that this idea is colourful and fun too!
Want to add some colour to your classroom alphabet? Take a peek at these rainbow alphabet animals!
Go ‘Around the World’
Around the World is a whole-class game that’s easy to adapt for different ability levels.
Here’s how it works:
- Choose a student to be the first traveler, and have them stand behind the person seated to their right.
- Read a word to this student, and he or she must spell it aloud.
- If they get the word correct, they move to stand behind the next person seated to their right — moving ‘around the world.’
- If the word is spelled incorrectly, give the word to the student seated in front of them. If that student spells the word correctly, that student becomes the next traveler.
The goal of the game is for a student to make it all the way around the circle (around the world). This one works really well in small groups.
Create Spelling Word Shapes
This is another hands-on idea that will help students create visual memories — allow students to practise writing out their spelling words in their favourite shape! For this idea, you’ll need tracing paper and simple black and white colouring sheets or concrete poem templates. Students place the tracing sheet on top of their shape, and write their spelling words all along the black lines!
Here’s what it looks like when a word is written down to create the shape of a cat!
Play Sight Word Bingo
We know kids love playing Bingo — it’s why we have dozens of sight word bingo cards ready to print on Teach Starter. You can print one of the pre-made options, or add your spelling word list to this blank customisable template and have students play in small groups.
Too simple? This fun activity is deceptive! While it’s one that will get your students swept up, it also reinforces spelling as your students will need to recognise the spelling of words and match them to the corresponding spaces on their bingo cards. This repetition of reading and recognising words can reinforce spelling skills and help students memorise the correct spellings.
Play Celebrity Heads with Words
Encourage students to learn more about their spelling words with the help of their classmates and a game of Celebrity Heads With Words.
Create a hat using coloured card, and use putty to stick a word to the front of the student’s hat. Students will work in small groups to work out the spelling word on their hats. They can ask simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ questions such as ‘Am I noun?’ or ‘Do I start with a consonant?’
When they have correctly guessed, they will then attempt to spell the word. If they are correct, they earn a point. Play then moves to the next player in the group who will have to guess the word on their own hat. The goal of the game is to have the most points in the group.
Teach Starter Teacher Tip: Need an easy hat template for the game? These printable animal face hats are a hit with kids, and they can take them home after the game.
Make Spelling Words Sparkle
Sparkle is a favourite on our teacher team, and it’s a great game to get the whole class involved!
Here’s how it works:
- You’ll need to arrange the students in a circle or a line, depending on how much space you have in your classroom.
- The student chosen to start the game off should say the first letter of a spelling word (you can provide the word, or you can challenge the student to remember one from their list).
- The next student in line says the second letter of the word, the following student says the third letter, and so on, until the word is spelled out completely. For example, if the word is ‘butterfly,’ the starting student would say ‘B,’ the next student would say ‘U,’ and so on until the last student says ‘Y.’
- After the word has been spelled, the next person must say ‘Sparkle.’ This encourages active participation — if the student wasn’t paying attention and doesn’t say sparkle, they will have to sit down!
- The player next to the person who said Sparkle must sit down.
- Provide a new word for students to spell, starting with the next student in the line (or circle). If the student cannot think of a letter or says the wrong letter, they are out and must sit down.
- The game continues in this way, with each student saying the next letter of the spelling word until only one student is left standing.