You really can make spelling fun!
By Kim Jaworski, Homeschool Resource Specialist
You really can make spelling fun. This is great news if you have a child whose eyes start to well up when you announce spelling practice. And although this might seem geared more to younger kids, even your older students will be amused.
At first, we were playing outside in the summer and I didn't want the kids to forget things during out summer break. So with sidewalk chalk in front of the house, I made circles (about the size of paper plates) and put a big capital letter in each circle. They were like lily pads with letters. Then I would call out a word and the child needed to walk on the letters in such a way as to spell that word without touching other letters. We called this leapfrog spelling. And they loved it. They particularly liked the vowels down the middle of the sidewalk with consonants to each side so they could jump around to spell their words.
In Minnesota, we have fickle weather patterns and a long stretch of winter, so sidewalk chalk isn't a consistent solution to our spelling regimen. I found a Twister game at a garage sale (and they can easily be picked up at a thrift store) and I put a letter on each color circle on our Twister mat, and added 2 more circles, one at each end of the mat to make our alphabet complete. Now we could play leapfrog spelling inside, any time we wanted to. Another big HIT! Another variation to this would be to simply use 26 paper plates. Put a letter on each plate and toss them around in a random configuration on your floor. The paper plates on carpet do a bit of sliding around as the kids more from one to another, but that adds a little challenge! Or you could use a bit of painters tape and anchor them on a vinyl or tile floor. We even toyed with painting the game on the cement floor in our basement. But before you get out the paints, here's one more advancement we made.
It finally dawned on me that there could be more method to my madness. We flipped the Twister mat over and I used a Rubbermaid lid as a template to make squar-ish rectangles for the letters, but this time I recreated the letter arrangement of a computer keyboard. Now, not only were we practicing our spelling, but they were reinforcing their knowledge of where things were located on a keyboard for typing. We called this variation “the Giant’s keyboard”.
Whichever version of this game you try, I promise it's more fun (which means the child is more engaged and is going to retain better) than simply writing words for spelling practice. And if you have active children who need to move, what could be better? Neurologists will also back me up that your child will learn more easily if more senses are involved in the experience.
This format for spelling practice also easily accommodates learners at different levels. You simply call out words from an age appropriate list for whichever child is taking the next turn. For your younger learners, they should be learning words by word families. Older kids might tackle a more jumbled list as a way to review the words they should know. I would only use this game to review word patterns you have already talked about. Not to introduce spellings or new word families.
Try it! Spelling and Fun deserve to be used in the same sentence.