Spelling fun–really!

In honor of the millions of school children all over our country who will be taking spelling tests today, I present to you our first post on fun and creative ways to practice spelling words. Flash cards, writing and memorization all have their usefulness, but there is no reason we can’t be fun the rest of the time.

Friday evening. My first-grader gets his spelling words on Fridays, and I read them to him from the paper, with him repeating after me. Reading and spelling are closely linked, and if a person reads enough, most of spelling will be second nature. So the first thing I do is to make sure he can read the words and really know them. I make note-card flash cards that first night.

Saturday and Sunday. I go through the flash cards with him a couple times a day. I try to do at least one fun activity for him to practice reading the words. I may also have him orally spell the words as he looks at the cards.

Monday. I may have him orally spell the words while reading them, then do a fun activity to practice the motions of writing the word.

Tuesday and Wednesday. He will orally spell them without looking at them and do another fun writing activity.

Thursday and Friday. We figure out which words he needs more help on and come up with a clever way to remember it; I will also have him do a practice spelling word each day.

Below, you will find the first five examples of some of the fun things we have done.

1. Nerf word shoot-out. I wrote my first-grader’s spelling words in marker on construction paper and hung them on the wall with scotch tape. It is worth saying that I actually hung them on the patio doors, and the lighting from behind made them a little hard to read. Then, he used his Nerf suction cup dart gun to shoot each word as I said it. My toddler boy even got involved retrieving the darts after they fell.


2. Sumo spelling. Everything about sumo spelling was hilarious. We giggled throughout the whole thing, and as a bonus were able to do some sumo-style roughhousing at the end. He had so much fun, he had to do it again another day to show his dad. First, it was my first-grader’s idea to do this in the first place, but he had never really seen sumo wrestlers. I wanted him to understand that when he stomped with each leg, he was actually doing sumo stretches, so I showed him some sumo wrestling on YouTube and found out the stomping is actually stretching. Then, I put an adult-sized long-sleeve tan shirt on him and stuffed a blankie in each sleeve, rolling the cuff up to help it fit and hold the arm “muscles” in place. I stuffed a baby blanket in by his tummy and cinched a long piece of yarn around his waist to hold the “belly” in place. I then put a dish towel between his legs and tied two corners up around one hip and the other two up at his other hip. Then I held up his flash cards, because he didn’t know all the words yet, and he yelled out each letter and stomped at the same time, making a tough face and flexing his muscles. It immediately went on our list of activities to do again.


3. Painting with water. I saw it suggested somewhere to keep a toddler or preschooler busy outside by giving them a water bucket and paint brush and have had success in the past–it is fun and can last a LONG time. So I put a twist on it and had my first-grader use water on a paint brush to “paint” his spelling words on our shed door. Our little guy also got in on the action and had so much fun “painting,” that he didn’t get into his older brother’s pail or work–always a good thing.


4. Painting at an easel. We did basic painting of the spelling words, since our paint is getting old and a little frustrating to work with, but I could see a creative kid having a lot of fun with this one, adding decoration to the letters or pictures to go with each word, even dressing up like a painter. It depends on how much patience the adult has and how much time is available.


5. Actions. The morning of one of our first-grader’s spelling tests, he was still having problems remembering all the letters, leaving one out. The word was wink, so I just went around for the hour before the bus came, alternating winking between my left and right eye saying W-I-N-K. Knowing that each eye had to wink twice just helped him remember that there were four letters, and adding the oral repetition made him remember which letters he needed to use. Quick, easy and effective, and it doesn’t even matter if he’s not the best at winking yet.


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