By Sarah-Ann Binning

Weekly spelling quizzes in elementary school were my kryptonite. My mom, being the innovative school teacher she is, came up with all types of “games” to help me pass my spelling quizzes.

At first, we tried having me practice verbally spelling my lists to my mother. But when it came time to take the test, I had difficulty writing the words on paper. The words look differently in manuscript form than how I pictured them verbally. This difference always seemed to throw me off, and I second guessed myself to the point where I’d change a correctly spelled word to an incorrectly spelled form.

So my mom turned study time into these hands-on activities:

1. Carpet Spelling. Write the word with your finger into thick lush carpet—the kind that you can see your finger markings in. Not only did touching the carpet stimulate my senses and make me more aware of the words I was spelling, the exercise also allowed me to practice writing out the words.

2. A touch of salt. Dump salt onto a baking sheet. Trace the spelling word into the salt. When I you get a word correct, smooth out the salt and start again. This activity also can be done with sand rather than salt. But I grew up in the flat lands of northwestern Ohio, where sand is found only in the local park sandboxes, so we used salt.

3. Skate it out. I loved being outside and I loved riding my bike and rollerblading. We were fortunate to have a large driveway for me to skate my spelling words out. My mom would call out a word, and I would shout each letter and then skate the shape of each letter

I’m almost positive that my mom played other spelling games with me as well, but I can no longer remember what they were. Obviously the games I do remember made an impact on my life. As I celebrate my 22nd birthday (today!) I can still retain vivid memories of tracing my finger in the salt and rollerblading in the driveway. Something my mom taught me must have worked because I graduated high school top of my class and finished my undergraduate Summa Cum Laude.

Every student is different. (Yes, I used the biggest cliché I could think of. But hey, clichés have to stem from some basis of fact, right?) The Internet can be a helpful tool in teaching your child or teaching yourself how to spell.  While these games worked for me, they might not work for others.

I recommend ilovethatteachingidea.com for more ideas on spelling games. Some of my favorites listed on the site are:

1. Rainbow Spelling (sent in by Kristen Lamsfuss, Texas). Give students a set of crayons in the colors of the rainbow. Trace each spelling word once with each color. This allows the child to trace the word seven times.

2. Board Game Spelling. This project is intended for students in fourth through sixth grade. Bring in ordinary board games and break a class into small groups. Group members collaborate to create new rules for the game that incorporate weekly spelling words.

And let’s not forget about the plethora of word games that already exist: Boggle, Scrabble just to name two. The point is spelling can be fun. Spelling bees are nerve breaking, especially for students who are embarrassed or afraid of their classmate’s ridicule. The purpose of this blog’s activities is to take the student out of competitive, embarrassing situations while still helping him or her learn how to spell. Making spelling entertaining, inviting and plain old fun is the key to helping students grow and learn

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