Thursday, January 08, 2009

Bee Season: Three Spelling Study Tips

Looking for spelling games? New ways to study? Gearing up for that big local homeschool spelling bee? Trying to figure out how to pronounce the schwa sound without giving away the vowel?

We are too. Here are three things we've been using to help us get ready:

1. Spelling City. This is the best spelling web site I have seen, and it's free. You can enter your own list, manage multiple lists, and edit them as needed. There are three levels of interaction: Teach me (the child hears the word spoken and sees the word spelled), Test Me (the child clicks a "say it" button, listens to the word, and then spells it in a blank field), and Play Games. The games on Spelling City are much much better than those on any other site I've found. They're big, bright, interesting, and actually reinforce the spelling of the words. After the child takes the test, he/she can retake it with only those words they missed. Another cool feature of Spelling City is that you can print out handwriting practice sheets with your words in cursive or printing, even including words the software doesn't "know" like gopak or raj.

2. Spelling Stairs. This game is particularly good for active kids who have trouble sitting still to practice spelling. Not that I know anyone like that. No, no, my children sit perfectly still and look expectantly at me, waiting to be told what to do. This is just fun for us, not at all a method of keeping my hair rooted in my head. Anyway, the child starts at the bottom of the stairs. With each word he gets correct, he leaps wildly up to the next step. With each word he gets incorrect, he drops back to the next lower step. At the top of the step he gets... something. A cookie, or a sticker or a bead to put on a string, or whatever bribing device you use. You could say "You have to get to the top of the stairs five times before you can go outside to play" or something like that. Benny loves this game and while we're playing it I do not have to tell him not to tap his toe, not to rock in his chair, not to chew on his collar, etc.

3. Spelling Stumps. This game is best played in the car, in line at the post office, or shouted up the stairs last thing at night. The idea is that you try and stump the other person as you're both trying to think of spelling words without looking at the list. I say a word, Benny spells it and then Benny gives me a word, I spell it and give him a word back. Any hesitation, saying "Ummm..." or scratching your head in bemusement results in the other player gaining a point. This game tends to focus on problem words because those are the words that you most clearly remember. Benny always goes straight for "adamant" and at this point I know he will never forget how to spell that word.

I hope these help you like they've helped us! Do you have any tips for me? I'd love to add some more games and methods to our a-r-s-e-n-a-l.


  1. Anonymous5:34 AM

    Great stuff. Benny and Sadie are lucky kids.

  2. Anonymous6:14 PM

    Thanks! I am going to try the Spelling Stairs game with my 10-year-old son.

  3. Anonymous6:17 PM

    I almost forgot. One of my kids' favorites is playing the old classic game "Hangman," with their spelling words, on the white board. They're not actually practicing spelling them independently, but it makes them pay attention to vowel sounds, spelling patterns, and such. I think it's a great learning tool.