Read it, write it, understand it - fantastic spelling activities for your classroom

Many thanks to our guest blogger Nicola Morris for these fantastic spelling activities that you can use to teach spelling in a fun and engaging way. 

Spelling currently has a higher profile than ever, thanks to the expectations for writing in the new assessments at the end of Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2, which mean that a child will effectively be penalised for not being able to spell words considered appropriate for their age.

Some children are very good at learning spellings for a test, getting 10 out of 10, and then forgetting them next time they use them in their writing. Other children find it very difficult to learn and remember spellings at all. It’s important that spelling is something that is given a focus, not just for tests but through ongoing activities that link reading, writing and understanding – it’s all very well knowing how to spell a word, but if you don’t know what it means, it isn’t going to be of much use! Spelling doesn’t have to take up a whole lesson – it’s best done little and often, with lots of repetition and active learning. Keep going back to spellings learned and tested, to make sure that they are not forgotten. Mix them up. Here are some ideas to choose from and adapt where appropriate.

Read it!

  • Put spelling words up on the flipchart, scattered around the sheet. Point to different words for the pupils to sound out or spell out, then say the word together. Do this at different speeds. Do it outside to give pupils the opportunity to SHOUT their spellings out as loudly as they can. Ask them to stand in pairs, facing each other, and take it in turns to chant out the spelling or sounds of different words to each other. They could move further and further apart to do this.

  • Keep current spelling words on display and encourage children to practise them when they have the odd minute. They can test each other.

  • Choose two or three spelling patterns or rules that you have been working on. Give groups 10 cards or Post-it notes, with a word on each one. They have to sort them, working out what the pattern or rule is themselves.

  •  Focus on word families. Explain to pupils that if they can spell, for example, ‘occasion’, they can also spell ‘occasional’ and ‘occasionally’; if they can spell ‘equip’, they can also spell ‘equipped’ and ‘equipment’. Put a selection of root words, prefixes and suffixes on the board for pupils to put together. Using different prefixes and suffixes, which are real words and which are nonsense words? Alternatively, this could be a group activity, using root word, prefix and suffix cards.

  • Word treasure hunt. Put out a trail of words based on four or five different spelling patterns. Give each group one of those spelling rules so that they have to look for all of the words with their spelling rule only. Once all of the words have been collected (and there could be red herrings), go through them. Every word collected correctly gets a point, and any words collected that don’t match the group’s spelling pattern lose a point.

Write it!

  • Give pupils words to copy and practise using rainbow writing, bubble writing, dotty writing, air writing or writing on each other’s backs.

  • Ask pupils to write their words so that they incorporate a visual image to help them to remember the spelling. This could be related to the meaning or to the shapes that they see in the word.

  • Go outside and write spellings in chalk on the playground.

  • Say a word to pupils. On individual whiteboards, they write how they think it is spelled – show, check and correct. They then have to write the word five times, as quickly as they can.

  • Dictate sentences that include current spellings and also spellings from previous weeks. Pupils can either write on whiteboards or in books; this links to understanding, through context, and also to grammar and punctuation.

  • Have a group spelling challenge. This is useful to do the day before a test, to give pupils the opportunity to practise and check what they know. Give one of the week’s spelling words. Pupils have to discuss and agree the spelling with their group and write it down. Go round the groups, so that each one spells out what they have written. Groups with the correct spelling get a point. Repeat for a few words.

Understand it!

  • Before looking up definitions, focus on the words in context. Give a spelling word in a sentence and ask pupils to suggest what it might mean, from the clues around it.

  • Dictionary challenge. Give pupils a spelling word. Who can find the definition first? Pupils could do this in pairs.

  • Give pupils some words with the definitions muddled up. Try matching them and then checking in the dictionary to see if they are correct.

  • Ask pupils to write a sentence for each of their spelling words, to show that they understand the meaning. Challenge them to write a sentence including at least three of their spelling words.

  • Give spelling tests as sentences with missing words (as in the national tests). Before saying the word, can pupils work out, from the context, which of their spelling words it must be?

Keep preparation minimal. Only print and laminate if you’re intending to use again. Otherwise, stick labels or strips of paper are fine, and, for lots of activities, children could be given the words to write down themselves – giving them further practice.

Nicola Morris is an author for the Skills Builders range, the fun and active way of teaching, learning, practising and revising all of the technical English requirements of the new national curriculum. 



English, Grammar, Spelling and Punctuation, KS1, ks2, primary, Spelling Tests

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