Sunday, 22 April 2012

Fed up with Spelling Tests?

We need to learn how to spell. It's essential if we're to communicate using written text. 

To find out if someone can spell a word a spelling test can be used. However, this does not need to be always done through the means of 'adult reads word, child writes word and then a score out of ten is produced'.

Yes, still use the 'traditional' spelling test sometimes, but how's about trying some of these too:

Anagrams: Provide the children anagrams of the words for them to then unscramble.

Crosswords: Give the children clues to a word's meaning or sentences with gaps.

Sentences: Write out some sentences. Some using the word correctly, others where the word's used incorrectly. Good for homophones and apostrophes.

Text: Provide a text with the words spelled incorrectly within in. Children correct the words.

Wordsearches: Put the words into a wordsearch for the children to find.

These often provide support, interest and engagement in the learning of spelling rules, patterns or key words for a particular topic. Using these also provides the opportunity to assess the children's understanding of a word's meaning.


  1. Thank you so much for sharing this. I am often frustrated with how the children learn the spellings for the test and then continue to spell them wrong in their work. It is a great idea to great idea to get them to use different tools to help them learn and practise their spelling in such fun ways.

  2. Mrs Duxbury, thank you for your comment and we're pleased it's been useful to you.

  3. Hi,

    Useful stuff - thank you.

    I also like to encourage different approaches to practicing spelling at home. I encourage parents to use several different approaches:

    1. Ask the child to give YOU a spelling test and mark it themselves (at first with reference to the words, but later without). Make errors in some words for the child to spot.

    2. Simply practice reading the words - in two ways. Using phonic/graphic strategies where necessary, but also on flashcards. Often I find too much emphasis is put on spelling the words dictated but very little time spent on actually looking at the words. As an adult, I use reading as the main way I learn to spell new words.

    3. (Related to 2) using a small whiteboard if available, or small pieces of paper/card write words from the list to 'flash' to the child - in some cases make errors. The child must say if you've spelled the word right or wrong.
    Flashcard reading can be made even more fun by holding flashcards upside down, or even trying to read the word backwards 'through' thinner paper for example as the child gets more proficient. My class of Y2s love this game when we work on HFWs and spellings!

    4. Find alternatives to 'right' and 'wrong' to use - correct/incorrect are sometimes better, but terms like 'so close!' and 'just one letter to add' are so much more positive.

    When I think about how I learn to spell new words as an adult, I realise I rely far more on whether I've seen the word than my phonic skills. A great example happened just this morning. I was watching the Formula 1 practice session in India when I noticed that one of the cars had a sponsor logo on the side that had been spelled incorrectly (or 'just 1 letter to change'!) - 'RUSSIAN HELICOPTEPS'. (If you didn't spot it, look again - it took my wife several looks). Anyway, that's not the main point. As a gentle joke, I tweeted the F1 team involved to point out that their driver needed to learn to spell. Here's the exchange that ensued:

    Me: @MyCaterhamF1 Guido needs some spelling lessons! Russian what?

    (and I attached a screenshot of the offending sponsor logo)

    Caterham: @neil_povey um... it's Giedo ...

    The point is - I heard the name mentioned on coverage and naturally assumed it was the spelling I was more used to. Had I seen it written down, perhaps in a screen graphic on the coverage, I'd have noticed the less common spelling and would have stood more chance of getting it right and, consequently, less chance of public embarrassment! I tweeted back that the irony of me making an error in a text about spelling was not lost on me!

    1. Thank you for the comments. Some really good ideas there! We will take some of them on.