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: