Spelling is a skill that is often difficult for students, especially if there is an issue with working memory. Although students might learn their spelling words for a spelling test school, often these words are stored in their short-term memory and are not retained. There are tons of strategies for teaching spelling words and their success often depends on students’ learning style, whether they learn best with visual, auditory, tactile or physical (or kinesthetic) activities.
Initially when I teach spelling, I follow a structured routine that involves a textured board called a “bumpy board”. These “bumpy boards” are actually meant for needlepoint projects but they work perfectly for the spelling routine (see below for a clickable link) or use this link.
The Orton-Gillingham spelling routine involves tracing, arm-tapping and writing each word at least 3 times in a row. Once they complete these steps, I ask students to either hop out the word or snap (if they are able to) the spelling word at least three times. Students get to choose which one they want to do. For hopping out the word, students go from left to right and then go back to underline the word from left to right. When students snap out the word, I have them snap in the air from left to right and then go back to the left and underline the word in the air as they say it out loud. These activities never replace the spelling routine but are added as a fun, kinesthetic element.
Once this routine is done for a set of spelling words (including sight words), I like to show students some apps they can use to practice their spelling words in between sessions, as long as I know they have a tablet to use at home (these days, most kids I work with have some kind of tablet). I usually bring my iPad to demonstrate the app but if I see that a student has an Android tablet, I’ll search for apps that are also available on the Google Play App Store.
Here are my favorite apps for spelling (both created by the same app developer, L’Escapadou)
1. Writing Wizard: Use the “My Words” area on this app to easily create spelling word lists for an interactive and fun writing experience. While students are working with their spelling words on this app, they are also learning proper letter formation with options for Zaner-Bloser, D’Nealian and Handwriting Without Tears handwriting styles. (You can find this app in the Google Play Store as well.)
2. Word Wizard: This app features built-in word lists, spelling quizzes, “Scrambled Letters”, and a movable alphabet for word building and phonics. There are tons of built-in word lists divided into various categories including CVC words, Dolch words as well as commonly used vocabulary. However, for words that are not included in the built-in lists, custom lists can be created easily. The Fry word lists are not included in the built-in lists so I created custom word lists for the first 300 Fry words, divided into sets of 25 words each. Students can take a spelling quiz for any word list as well as practice spelling with the “Scrambled Letters” activity. One of my favorite features is the movable alphabet which includes digraphs and vowel teams so that students can hear the sound when they touch or move the tiles to the work space.
I am also a self-proclaimed Amazon.com addict, especially for educational tools. Here are some of my favorite tools for reinforcing spelling words:
1. GoWrite! Dry Erase Learning Boards: These dry erase boards have handwriting lines to help students with proper letter formation while they are practicing their spelling words.
2. Spelligator: This is a fun game meant for practicing words that follow specific spelling patterns, beginning with CVC words and moving forward into words with digraphs, blends and vowel teams (but not for sight word spelling practice). The game comes with letter tiles, color coded for vowels and consonants. There are also tiles for digraphs, blends and vowel teams but I keep those separate from the vowel and consonant tiles. I only bring them out once those concepts have been covered with students during our tutoring sessions.
3. Tactile letter cards: These are flash cards with textured sandpaper letters. Not only do I like these because they reinforce correct letter formation but I also like them because you can put them together to form words and allows students to trace and spell the words aloud (especially Kindergarten and first grade sight words). It is important to note that each set comes with one of each letter so you might eventually need to purchase more than one set.
Last, but not least, I have been working on some new resources for my Teachers Pay Teachers store and recently added a Word Building Board. I created this board to be printed and laminated. You can have students spell words with dry erase markers or use letter stickers. To view all of my products on Teachers Pay Teachers, click on the icon below:
I’ve always loved playing games and one of my favorites is Jenga. Recently, I came across a new Jenga game called Jenga Quake, made for children as young as 6.
The blocks are plastic, not wood, but are about the same shape and size as in the original Jenga. The most notable difference between this game and the original Jenga is that with this game, the blocks get built on a base that intermittently shakes to add an extra challenge to building a tower and then removing blocks. I bought this game for my son to play and he absolutely loved it! He was so engaged in play that I was inspired to find ways to use this for reading instruction, specifically CVC word work and short vowel instruction. I can’t say there is any digital technology included here but I wanted to share this anyway.
So, here is what I did to make this a fun literacy activity for working with individual students or even small groups…
First, I purchased lower-case letter stickers online. From what I have found in stores, I can say there is a wide variety of choices for upper-case letters but it has been more difficult to find lower-case letters. I recommend buying stickers with multiple colors so that the vowels are a different color than the consonants. Here are the stickers that worked for me but you can also find these in letter stickers in single colors. I recommend using the single-color stickers for the consonants and the multi-color ones for the vowels. You’ll want to purchase several packages of these stickers, not just one. I also want to note that these stickers are glittered and have a subtle textured. Also, the letter “a” on these stickers is in the style that most children learn the write it, an important feature for easier letter recognition:
Next, I put all of the Jenga blocks (some are orange and the others are gray) out on the table so that I could put the consonant stickers on the orange blocks and vowel stickers on the gray blocks. This is truly the only preparation needed for this activity.
Some tips for using this game for short vowel and CVC instruction:
- If you want to differentiate for varying levels, you can provide your lower-level groups a list of CVC words you want them to stack and then let the higher-level groups make words without a list. If you are looking for word lists, check out the printable CVC word list created by fellow blogger Anna Geiger of The Measured Mom.
- Since I use this activity for individual tutoring with an Orton-Gillingham inspired approach, I do not give my students a list of words but rather I start by making the first word on the tower and then I ask them to make new words from there. (For example: “What is this word?” and “How would you make the word “mat” and “cap” from this word?”)
- I like to have students first make the next word with the blocks in the same direction as the word before it, tap out the new word and say it aloud and then they can rotate the blocks in the alternate direction before moving on to the next word.
- For my youngest students, I do not always use alternating blocks. Instead, we just stack the new words on top of the previous words, fingertapping and reading them until we run out of blocks.
- When I am working with students on isolated vowel instruction, I like to play this game without building a whole tower. Instead, the vowel being taught remains on the base and my students change the consonants and then read the new word.
Aside from Jenga, if you are looking for other games to use for CVC word work, check out Spelligator, another fun way to practice spelling and reading three (and four) letter words. Spelligator has vowel and consonant tiles as well as some digraphs, blends and vowel teams but I only use the tiles for the concepts I have covered with my students.
*This post contains affiliate link (in images).
I had the opportunity to attend FETC 2017 last week and spend two full days in the Expo Hall. The exhibit hall is the best place to get up-close demonstrations of products and have conversations with the teacher ambassadors and marketing team members representing the company. The last time I attended this conference was four or five years ago so I was thrilled I could go again. There were hundreds of EdTech vendors showcasing their newest programs and products and I am pretty sure I stopped by every booth. While I learned about several new EdTech tools, I also gained more knowledge about the tools I already use. My initial focus was searching for new tools for early literacy as well as interactive whiteboards and iPad tools for consulting and tutoring but I came home with much more than that!
I figured a great way to share my favorite tools was to create a list using Listly. So here it is…please check back often for more posts featuring these products!
One of the best parts of being in the EdTech world is the exposure to so many amazing products designed for teaching and learning! Although I am no longer teaching in a school setting, I am always searching for new digital products for early education. This past summer, I had the opportunity to work alongside a team of talented educators in the development of a literacy app named Squiggle Park, created as a reading tool for educators and parents of Pre-Kindergarten through First Grade students.
Squiggle Park’s Lead Teacher, Sarah Rich, highlights the features of this amazing literacy program below.
Squiggle Park provides bite-sized games for kids teaching foundational reading skills through play. Our games are built for teachers, by teachers, researchers, and literacy specialists. Our teacher friendly dashboards help teachers collect data to drive their instruction.
What makes our variety of games stand out from the rest?
- One of my favorites is the word building game. In this activity, students are prompted to build the word by listening to the sound. I hadn’t seen this activity featured in any app before (and I’m a total EdTech geek).
- Students love to play and stay engaged.
- It measures student mastery, not just completion.
- The teacher-friendly dashboards. You can view student data both whole class and by individual student.
- Games are differentiated for each student. When utilizing Squiggle Park in the classroom, teachers can feel confident that their students are developing essential reading skills that will help them grow into strong and successful readers.
- Provides useful data for IEP meetings and parent conferences.
Squiggle Park focuses on a combination of high-frequency words and the most common Grapheme Phoneme Correspondence (GPCs). By the end of Kindergarten, students will be able to decode over 300 spelling words. Upon completion of Squiggle Park, students will show mastery of over 1500 spelling words.
Here’s what one teacher has said about her experience using Squiggle Park with her students:
“I am a part of a successful district with high performing students but I have a few in my class who were struggling with reading. I decided to double the time these students played Squiggle Park and over the course of five weeks, they have been able to catch up to the strong readers. We are thrilled with this progress and love Squiggle Park.”
Sarah Long, Kindergarten Teacher
Would you like to try Squiggle Park for free?
We are beginning our Pilot 2.0 this month! This gives teachers the opportunity to try Squiggle Park for free! The pilot will last until the end of the school year (June 2017). Our requirements are:
- Teachers must have three or more Pre-K through First Grade classrooms willing to pilot. Access to iPads or computers is required.
- It is recommended that students use Squiggle Park for 30 minutes each week. Some teachers have their students play every day and others play 10 minutes a day 3 times a week. Another option is to add Squiggle Park into the literacy block station rotation
To join our pilot, visit our website http://squigglepark.com/pilot/. Click on “try for free” on our home page. While you’re here be sure to check out our free resources and PD videos. We can’t wait for you to be a part of our #SquiggleSquad team!
Watch this short video to see why Squiggle Park works!
Also, if you have a Smartboard in your classroom, watch this video for tips on how to integrate Squiggle Park into your interactive whiteboard lessons.
As an educator and tutor, I have come across tons of sight words websites and apps that I have found to be helpful in one way or another. Many of these resources can be made into games but they are not always customizable. Recently, I came across SightWords.com, a web-based resource that offers lessons with research-based strategies for teaching sight words as well as flash cards and a wide variety of games that can be generated with preset lists or a custom set of words.
If you are looking for an easy way to make flash cards to help your students learn their sight words, whether the focus is on Dolch, Fry or any other set of sight words, use the Flash Card Generator for printable full-page, half-page or quarter-page flashcards. These cards can be created quickly with any or all Dolch or Fry word lists. There is also the option to type in other words to create custom flash cards with a limit of 24 words at a time.
The other option is to create custom flash cards by typing words in the boxes under