First Grade Spelling Games

Instructor: Maria Airth

Maria has a Doctorate of Education and over 20 years of experience teaching psychology and math related courses at the university level.

Practicing spelling words can be a rote task that does not excite students in the learning process. This lesson gives many active and quiet games to help get students fully engaged in learning.

Playing Games in Education

Students sit in a classroom staring at their teacher. Their eyes look blank and their heads nod. When do they get to go play?

Students are up, out of their seats running and laughing. They are completely engaged with the rules of the current game. They are trying hard for their team to win. They wish this could last forever.

Which scenario represents what you want your students to feel while learning? All children play; especially young children like those in first grade. In years past, these children might not have even been in formalized education yet; schools preferring to keep them in play-based learning modes for longer. We can't take their nature away, but we can teach them in a way that more closely suits their needs and desires at this age through the addition of academic, play-based games to supplement classroom concepts.

The age old practice for spelling words is to write them ten times a day, maybe using them in a sentence as you go. This is boring and many students completely shut down their processing as they go through the rote task. Playing active games helps keep students consciously involved in the process of learning. This lesson will offer a number of games both for the whole class to play at once and for students to play individually or in small groups.

Playing as a Class

You won't have time to get the whole class involved in games every day, but when possible give it a try. Students will enjoy the novelty and competitiveness of working in larger teams against the whole class. Remember to take skill levels into account when making groups; if a child feels they have no chance to win, they disengage from the activity quickly.

Connect the Words

  • Materials: Long lengths of rope or heavy duty string and large letter cards.
  • Preparation: Cut very long lengths of rope, one for each team. Randomly place the letter cards around the play area. Divide teams evenly according to skill.
  • Play: Each team is TOLD a word from the current spelling word list. The teams then run to the field of letters arranging themselves in such a way that their rope connects the word in a line (the rope goes through each letter in the correct order). Students will have to hold on to the rope in different places and stand on the letters of the word. When a team thinks they have correctly connected the letters of their word, they raise their hand. Play stops while the teacher checks their work. If they are right, they win and all players return to the starting point for a new word. If they are wrong, play continues.

Cheering for Spelling

  • Materials: Large letter cards for students to hold
  • Play: Hand out letters to students in the class. You may need to give multiples of some letters (check your word list). Call out letters in the manner of the old cheer Give me a C! Students would respond by yelling the letter called out and the student with that letter card should run to the front of the class and face the students. Continue calling out the letters until you got all letters required for a word: Give me an A! Give me a T! Finally, call out the last line of the cheer; What's that spell? and the class should yell out the word they see spelled in front of them by their classmates.

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