Benito Vacio

Helping students with spelling

Activities for your writing classes

One important aspect of writing which we, EFL teachers in Thailand, sometimes fail to develop among our students is spelling. Oh, we have given so much skill development on reading, speaking, writing and listening, but spelling as an integral part of writing is given less importance.

Yes, many of our students are capable of speaking and can easily transfer their oral language skills to written form, but there are still a number of students who need some enhancement in their spelling skills.

Spelling activities

There was a time when students of mine in a new school could not spell simple words compared to my previous students in other schools. They were so conversant yet when asked to spell certain words they were hard up. I therefore modified the activities required of us by integrating spelling in my lessons. It did work so I formalized my spelling activities.

To make spelling more interesting among my students, I provided them spelling booklets they could use whenever we had spelling lessons. I got 40 notebooks from my coordinator and cut them into halves so the students could have small spelling booklets. Every week, after studying vocabulary words, I selected five words for Grades 1-3 and 10 words for Grades 4-6 to copy and master.

Spelling warm-up

Before starting the lesson every meeting, the students would review from their spelling booklet, engage a race in spelling the words on the board, join a spelling quiz, ask classmates to spell a particular word, etc. The students found this regular review something to look forward to which enabled them to know the words by heart.

Students had fun in our spelling activities because they spelled words in various ways. They would spell words with closed eyes on their palms, on their foreheads, on their classmates back, in the air, and on the floor.

They would spell the words using their body, pen, chin, or head either lying down or standing up, filling up the missing letters in a worksheet, spelling the letters backwards, spelling the letters on the board in a race, forming words from the letters scattered on the floor, spelling by groups, pairs, using an interaction game, and doing puzzles and games in the internet, and so on and so forth.

To make it more challenging, I did spelling contests in front of the flag ceremony. The student who misspelled no word emerged as the winner and received a prize.

To see to it that I could sustain their interest I designed different games to make spelling fun. Here are my sample games:

Games and activities for spelling classes

1. Spelling Showdown - Teams are formed. Group members compete with another group. The group that garners most of the points wins.

2. Spelling Wizards - The whole class is formed into two groups. Group 1 member plays "Rock, Stone, and Paper" with the Group 2 member. The winner of the play has the chance to spell the word the teacher gives. If this student answers the question correctly he/she gets a point for his/her group. If he/she can't spell correctly the chance goes to another team member. This is done until everyone has participated.

3. Winner Takes It All - This time everybody is a contestant. The contestant picks a spelling word from a box. The teacher reads it and the student spells. If this student spells the word, he/she remains a qualifier. The second one is asked, if this student can spell, he /she is qualified. If he/she fails to spell the word, he /she is eliminated then another one is asked This goes on and on until qualifiers are established (those who have no mistakes). The qualifiers compete with each other again and the one who is not eliminated is declared the winner.

4. Spell on Me, Spell on You - Students work in pairs. One student writes a word at the back of the classmate. The classmate guesses the word. If he gets it, he earns a point and does the turn of writing on his classmate's back. This is repeated until the person who gets most points wins.

5. Do you have a letter? This is played by two players. They need a notebook and a pen. Player A thinks of a word to spell and tells the partner how many letters it has. The partner draws the number of lines corresponding to the number of letters of the word. Similarly, Player B thinks of a word to spell and tells the partner how many letters it has. The partner draws the number of lines corresponding to the number of letters of the word.

Player A asks if B has a certain letter. If B has, Player A asks on what space it is? Player B answers and Player A writes on the specified space. Then Player B asks if A has a certain letter. If A has, Player B asks on what space it is? Player A answers and Player B writes on the specified space. In case no letter is present in the word to spell, they take turn asking each other. Even if the spaces are not yet completed, any player can guess the spelling word. A point of course is given to the correct answer.

6. Light Wheel Spelling. Spelling words are posted on the side of 12 bulbs in a wheel. The papers are folded to hide the words. The student presses the button of the switch and the bulbs light in a circular motion. If the student releases the button, the light stops but has the light on. The teacher opens the paper and reads the word for the student to spell. The student who spells correctly the word earns a point for the team. The winning team has the most number of points.

7. Table Bell Spelling. Two table bells are used. Students have a race in tapping the bell. The first to do it spells the teacher's word. The group that spells more words is declared the winner

8. Shoot the Goal Spelling - Using a ball, the student shoots a goal. He or she will have the privilege of shooting the goal if he/she can spell the word asked by the teacher.

9. Table Tennis Spelling -This time the student can play a table tennis racket only after he/she has spelled correctly the word assigned to him/her. The number of ping pong ball bounced is counted and the team that has the most number of bounces wins.

At times, I have the practice of asking my students the spelling of words to be written on the board for them to copy. I play the role of a teacher who doesn't know how to spell the words and they help me spell orally to make them feel
good. It works and because of this little success, many of them say, and I am happy, that their favorite subject is English.

Make spelling part of your writing lessons. It does wonders and a poor spelling student before is now a poor speller no more.


No doubt, you are a teacher by heart.

By Joy, Philippines (14th March 2016)

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