Monday, December 12, 2011

Diffusing the frustration with Sp-e-ll-ing

Spelling...ah...spelling.  My least favorite subject.
Whenever I spell a word out loud I think of that scene from Anne of Green Gables where Anne is the only one in the class who can spell C-H-R-Y-S-A-N-T-H-E-M-U-M.  Even in the movie, it seems so dry and boring.  And yet, we all need to know how to spell.

I searched hard and long for a spelling curriculum that I could love.  After using several different ones, I still have not found one that I love.  But, I have settled for one that I like:)  It is logical, quick, to the point, has the most success for my kids, and is without "busy work" NOT a fan of busy work!  We have enough to do to keep us busy around here:)

However, even with this curriculum, I am met with frustration and even sometimes tears from kids when going through a lesson.  Today, as I was calling out spelling words, I was met with resistance.  It wasn't blatant but I could feel it.  I could tell that things would spiral in a direction that I didn't want to go, so in addition to the new word, I drew a small smiley face on the corner of my marker board.  As I showed my word and we spelled together out loud correcting his word as needed, I saw that the smiley face was noticed and my son returned the favor by drawing a smiley face on his board after he wrote his next word.  So, with the next word, I drew a different smiley face, then another, and another.  Pretty soon, I had a little boy in stitches who couldn't wait to check his word against mine so that he could see the next funny face that I would draw.  Each time he would copy my silly face onto his marker board as he corrected any Spelling errors.

I marveled at just how easy it had been to change the atmosphere around the required spelling assignment.  I didn't have to draw a line in the sand and have a stand off...just a smiley face:)  As I thought about it I remembered several other things that I have done in the past to help make Spelling fun and "hands on".  So here are a few of the things that we have done over the years to diffuse the frustration with Spelling and make it more fun.  Maybe your kids love spelling and beg you to quiz them over their words, but if they are like mine and despise it, here are some things that might give a breath of fresh air to your spelling work...whether you homeschool or not...I'm confident that you do school at home:)

*Before we start spelling each day, I try to keep it in perspective.  Gaining and keeping the hearts of my children and nurturing that relationship is far more important than them being perfect spellers.  So, I try to respond to their stress in a stress-free way:)

Things that we do regularly:

1. I do not give "tests".  Don't kids are still learning to spell and the environment is much more stress free:)

2. I use a curriculum that is quick, to the point, sequential, and can be done in 10 minutes each busy work!

3. I use a marker board to write the words and allow the kids to have their own marker board and marker to write their words.  Amazing how a different writing utensil can make all the difference for those tactile learners.  Spelling is now fun...well at least to some degree:)

In this picture, a dry-erase crayon is being used. 

4. I allow the kids to sit, stand, lie on the floor, etc. and get comfortable.

Things that I do occasionally:

1. Shaving Cream Spelling.  I will squirt a small amount of shaving cream on the table and let them write their words into the shaving cream instead of on a marker board.  After each word, they erase by smearing the shaving cream with their hands.  This is especially great for those "tactile" learners who need to do so much more that hold a pencil.  Just having something cool and squishy in their hands engages their minds in a whole new way.  Clean up is also easy.  Just a quick wash of the hands and a wipe of the table and it is cleaned up.  And, the kids smell great!

 You should see the smiles that accompany spelling on these days:)

2. Ziploc Spelling.  This is similar to the shaving cream but is a small amount of colored hair gel sealed inside of a gallon ziploc bag.  They can write their words in the gel with a finger.  With this there is no mess but the same tactile advantages as the shaving creme method.  The down side is that only shorter words will fit...unless you get a larger plastic bag:)

3. Tile Spelling.  This can be done several different ways.  One is to purchase small one inch tiles and then write letters on them.  Or, we just use the tiles from our Scrabble game.  This lets them "build" the word by placing the tiles in a row.  This will take longer than writing but is so much more engaging:)  The down side to the Scrabble tiles is that they are all capitals and there are no punctuation marks.

4. Color Spelling.  Here they can do each spelling word a different color.  I stick to one color for each word to stay within a reasonable time frame.  Amazing how this little change sparks something within their creative side and connecting the creative with spelling makes them remember it.

5. Ladder Spelling.  Here you have them turn a regular piece of notebook paper sideways and write each word vertically in a column.  This one is harder for the visual learner but works great for other learner types.

6. Picture Spelling.  With this, I have them write the word and then draw a picture of the word next to it.  It's fun to see how creative they are.  This is great for any artists in your family...I have several:)

I want to again say that most of these are things that we do occasionally and not every day.  They take a little more time and sometimes require special guidelines, etc..

So, I hope that some of these ideas will breathe new life into your spelling lessons and help to diffuse the frustration that often comes with spelling.


  1. Love, love, Love these ideas! I'll definitely be trying some of them, especially next year when I have two spellers.

  2. Great ideas! I have a set of playdoh letter stampers that we used with beginning spelling as well.

  3. Love the tactile learner ideas. I am not a tactile learner so any ideas to make it more hands on for my tactile learner is great! I will have a shaving cream on hand now, thank you!