Games for learning to spell

What’s the most difficult thing in the English language? What is more, it is difficult not only for the learners but also for the native speakers. They even hold contests in it in the USA held among elementary school children. Obviously, it is spelling. 

Why is English spelling so challenging? The cause is a great number of languages that have been enriching English since the beginning of times. Here we can find Latin, French, Greek, German and many others. As words come from a different language, they bring the written and most often the spoken form from the original language. 

There are 50 commonly misspelt words which you and your students should be really careful with. You can find them here. This all is very interesting, but the question is how to teach our students to spell correctly? In the era of gamification, we will, without doubt, look at fun ways to do that.

Silhouette drawing 

The very name of it is challenging for spelling. Here you ask your students to draw a silhouette of the word on the board or piece of paper. The others should guess the word by its outline. It’s better to do a couple as a whole class and then to switch to pairwork. 

For the same sake, you can use Cuisenaire rods and make an outline using tall and short rods. 
silhouette spelling Skyteachgames to spell Skyteach

Words out of…

You can give your students a long word and ask them to make as many shorter words from it as they can. Another way is to assign or give each student/pair/group some letters on tiles/in a grid which they have to use. They cannot add any other letters. Give them a topic or just let them think and write for some time. Tell them that you are going to check the spelling and only correctly spelt words will gain points.

games for learning to spell Skyteach


It’s the easiest of all. You change the order of the letters in a word and ask your students to unscramble them. In the next step, you can ask them to prepare such anagrams for each other.

children — dilcehnr

You can find a lot of variations of this kind for your smartphone:


This might seem an oldie-goldie, but here it is with a twist. You give your students an empty grid and ask them to put some words (on the topic you want them to practise) in it. After they’ve filled the grid with words, ask them to fill all the empty unused cells with random letters. Your students exchange the grids and look for the words (and maybe some spelling mistakes).

Sound Hangman

In the classic version, we draw the number of LETTERS in the word, but in the “sound” version we want to concentrate on the SOUNDS. That is why you draw the dashes not for the letters but for the sounds. And, consequently, your students name the sounds instead of letters. This version helps to tie the written form — the letters — to the sound form of the word. 

BATH — _ _ _ (4 letters, 3 sounds — /bɑːθ/)

SHALLOW — _ _ _ _ (6 letters, 4 sounds — /ˈʃæl.əʊ/


This game needs some preparation. Prepare 20-25 cards for each letter of the alphabet (on the whole you will have 520-650 cards). The cards shouldn’t be big, 5*5 cm is enough. To last longer, it is a good idea to laminate your cards.

Put all the cards on the table face up. Put some pencils or some funny objects on the table. The number of them should be one fewer than the number of students playing (if you have 4 students, you prepare 3 objects). Dictate a word.

Students spell the word by looking for the letters in the pile. When the first student finishes spelling, they grab one of the objects. The other students do the same. The last student writes P on a piece of paper. Whoever spells the word “pencil” (or the word for the objects chosen) first losses.

Some online games to play with your students:

  • Free Online Spelling Games — Here you can find a lot of games for kids and schoolchildren which will help them spell words correctly and remember the sight words. Just log in with your Facebook* or Google account, you can also register with an email if you don’t have a social networks account.
  • Spelling Training gives you an opportunity to choose a list of words from the ones on the website or create your own and then transform the words into a game like Spelling Shark, Balloons, Wordsearch and some others.
  • Letter Blocks — Find words in the grid. You can click on the letters next to each other or diagonally. Falling blocks make it more challenging to concentrate. 
  • Bouncing Letters ask you to shoot with a letter into a mass of other letters so as to form a word. If you do form a word, the letters disappear clearing the space. Sometimes you can even learn some new words.
*Facebook belongs to Meta Platforms Inc., whose activities are recognized as extremist and banned in the Russian Federation.

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