Practicing spelling words can be part of a balanced literacy program. The trick is knowing how to practice to achieve long-term results that can be applied across the curriculum and keep it fun for the students.
There are many ways to practice the correct spelling of words. Some are admittedly a lot more fun than others.
1. Word Pyramids
A word pyramid is simply a way of repeating the letters in a word. Think of it like a sail on a boat: write the entire word on a line. Above the word, write it again but leave off the last letter. Move to the next line above and leave off the next letter, until the final letter at the tip of the sail is the last letter of the word (become = becom = beco = bec = be = b).
This exercise helps students to really focus on the most difficult part of the word. They will highlight the letters they struggle with the most. Ask the students to think in color (what they highlighted) when spelling the word from now on. For example, "loan" may have the vowel team "oa" highlighted.
3. Use the word in context
One of my favorite spelling lessons teaches students how to write a story using creative writing prompts from pictures.
This way of practicing hits on key areas of literacy development, and is super easy for kids to understand.
The premise is simple: model how to write a very simple story, then insert spelling words.
Really. That's it. But it does so many things!
Here's how I do it.
prompt (I actually have an old book of picture prompts that I found in
the classroom when I moved to second grade years ago. Pretty sure it's
about 20 years old, but it works!).
~Chart paper to brainstorm on and write a rough draft.
list (depending on the grade level, identify how many words you will
require students to incorporate into their descriptive or narrative
writing piece. I require 5 at the beginning of the year and increase it
gradually up to 10).
1. Gather students around the chart paper and explain that you are going to be doing a modeled writing lesson
with them. You will be showing them how to write a story from a
picture prompt and then insert their spelling or vocabulary words into
2. Draw four squares on the chart paper label each box with a simple story element (characters, setting, problem and solution).
3. Show the prompt and ask students for suggestions for each
element. If your picture is simple enough, this will be very easy for
4. After recording their story elements, model how to
write a very simple story. My sample story that I wrote with my class
is in BLACK.
5. Now tell the students that you are going to
look back at your story and see where you can fit in 5 of the spelling
words. As you model this step, some students will naturally begin to
call out words and options for placement. Allow this as their oral talk
is lending itself to understanding the lesson.
The addition of our spelling words is in RED (our focus was on CVC words and digraphs/blends). They are underlined as well for easier identification later.
Naturally the stories will become longer and much more detailed as your students become comfortable with this way of practicing spelling words and creative writing.