Learn spelling through play

As teachers and parents, drilling spelling words to get children to buy in or engage can be like pulling teeth. Let’s face it – it’s boring, right?

Wrong! With a little creativity, drilling spelling words can become fun. Here are some tips and games to spur children into learning spelling words and extending their vocabulary, while having fun.

Build it

Building is an interactive way to encourage children to learn to spell. Ask your children to type or write out the words. Cut each word into individual letters, then place the letters face down. Let them pick seven letters to start with, then ask them to see if they can build any of the words using the letters they have. For each letter used to build a word, the child can pick up the number of letters used from the letters that are face down. Words can be built horizontally, vertically, and diagonally using letters from words that have been built already.

If the child cannot build a word from the letters they have, let them write down the tricky word. If the word is spelt correctly, allowed them to pick up the number of letters present in the tricky word from the letters that are face down.


For this spelling game, go through the definition of each word with the child. Type or write out the words and cut out each word, then fold the words in half. Ask the child to pick a word, look at it, then try to give you clues so that you can guess which word the child has picked up and vice versa.

Once the word has been guessed successfully, the players must write the word, either on a white board or piece of paper, and see who writes it the fastest while spelling it correctly. You can even use a Snakes and Ladders board with dice to make it more interesting! Each person can roll the dice and the one who writes the word the fastest (spelling it correctly) gets to move the number the dice landed on.

Mix and match

To play ‘mix and match’, create two tables in a Word document or draw it on a piece of paper, then type or write the words in the right column and their definitions in the left column. Cut out the words and definitions individually, then shuffle them and spread them out on a surface.

The child needs to match the word to the correct definition (see how fast they can do this – you can use a timer on your phone, or watch, or a sand timer). After the child has matched all the words with the definitions, take away the words and let the child write the words on a white board or a piece of paper.

Picture this

After going through the words and their definitions with the child, type out the words and cut them out individually. Fold them in half and spread them out on a surface. The child picks a word and then gets 30–40 seconds to draw something that will enable you to guess the word.

You are allowed to observe while the child is drawing and to guess throughout the drawing process. The person who is guessing must write the word and it must be spelt correctly before the person is allowed to roll the dice (the person can get as many chances as it takes to spell the word correctly). You can also use a Snakes and Ladders board game (for every word that a player guesses right, the player can roll the dice and move forward).

Hop ‘n Spell

Draw several hopscotch blocks with chalk (on a pavement) or with a stick (in the sand). Call out a spelling word. The child needs to spell the word while hopping from block to block. If the child spells the word correctly, they score one point and can continue from the block they finished in. If the child spells the word incorrectly, they need to start at the beginning and spell the word again.

If your child finds it difficult to spell out the word without having a written reference, they can write the word when you call it out and then look at the word while hopping and spelling it out.

Colour by word

Get a paint-by-numbers or colour-by-numbers picture. Read out a word for the child to write, either on a piece of paper or on a white board. The child can colour a specific number for every word that they spell correctly.

Roll on words

This game involves using play dough or making dough. Let the child roll the dough to make it easy to manipulate. Call out a word and let the child build or form the word with the dough.

Rap it out

This exercise works well in groups as a fun class activity. Divide the learners into groups of three or four. Allocate a specific or tricky word to each group. Children must make a rap incorporating both the spelling and the meaning of the word. They can use props and/or dress up if they want.

So without further ado – take the boring out of drill work and spelling, and let the games begin!

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