The spelling bee is a long-standing tradition dating back to the 1800s. Despite the competitive, game-like element, it isn’t always a lot of fun. There can be a huge amount of pressure on students to perform well; the idea of losing face in front of all your family and classmates is, quite frankly, terrifying. Along with this, when you make a mistake you are out, meaning you don’t get to practice anymore.
How to Improve Your Spelling
So, you can’t get good at spelling just by taking a spelling test, but how can you improve your spelling in a way that’s genuinely fun?
Get lots of exposure to correctly spelled words
To improve your spelling skills, it’s important to read extensively. This doesn’t even mean that you have to read fancy books to get good at spelling, reading any sort of text will help. Adventure games – Tomb Raider, for instance – tend to involve a lot of reading, and the text is often spoken too, so your brain can see how the sounds and the spellings tie-up.
Don’t bother with spelling ‘rules’
The English language is notoriously irregular, and even the best spelling rules are complicated and riddled with exceptions. The classic rule ‘I before E except after C’ works to some extent, but only when the sound made by the letters is /ee/, and not for exceptions like ‘weird’, ‘seize’, and ‘caffeine’. As psycholinguist Mark Seidenberg points out, English spelling is governed by probable patterns rather than hard and fast rules.
Look for spelling patterns
According to Diane McGuinness, an Emeritus Professor of Psychology, “Very little active memorization is necessary when learning is based on exposure to predictable patterns.”
To help you notice and remember the patterns, make spelling lists of words that have the same spelling for the same sound, such as ‘weigh’, ‘weight’, ‘eight’, ‘freight’, ‘sleigh’, and ‘neighbor’, all containing the vowel sound /ay/. It’s also a good idea to make a list of the words you find difficult. Ideally, you should write them by hand, since forming the shapes of the letters has been shown to help them stick in your memory. You can then use the words in your own spelling activities; a fun way to practice is to try handwriting a story or poem using your wordlists.
Get lots and lots of spelling practice
This is where spelling games come in – they make it motivating to practice spelling words over and over again, and “spelling alternatives [...] can be mastered through controlled exposure and repetition” (Diane McGuinness). Let's review some of our favorite spelling games to teach you how to improve your spelling in a fun and educational way.
Word Detector is one of our most fun spelling games here at Coolmath Games. It’s perfect for kids and less confident spellers as it contains lots of simple words like ‘pit’, ‘tip’, and ‘rat’, known in phonics teaching as CVC words (consonant sound, vowel sound, consonant sound). The difficulty builds slowly, and players can get help by clicking on the light bulb button, but this docks points from the score, increasing the motivation to try it without help.
In ourWord Search game, players can select the level of difficulty (Easy, Medium, Hard, or Maniac). Words written in strange directions can be tricky for less confident readers and spellers, so the Easy level of Word Search doesn’t include diagonals, and the Easy and Medium levels don’t include words spelled backward.
You can also choose whether to see the list of words to find. Displaying the wordlist provides a model of the correct spellings. Along with this, looking from the list to the game grid trains short-term memory, which is an essential spelling skill and is often underdeveloped in people with dyslexia.
You can also select a particular topic from the category list to make sure you’re practicing the words that you want to learn.
Of course, we have to include the Coolmath Games classic, Hangman. The great thing about Hangman is that it gets easier the more letters you guess, so although you might start by trial and error, you end up being able to decipher the missing word by thinking about letters that typically go together and identifying the patterns. The Coolmath Games version includes popping balloons and a ravenous monster, rather than the more gruesome hangman of the traditional game. Again, it has a choice of levels and is themed to help you work out the gapped word.
The advantage of all these interactive spelling games is that they show you the correct answer at the end, so you get feedback on your progress and further exposure to the correct spellings.
For more advanced and faster-paced spelling fun, try some of the other online spelling games in our Word Games collection, such as Daily Jumble, Word Race, and Unolingo. There are also Daily Crossword puzzles to tax your word power and spelling skills.
Want some more information about spelling games? We have a couple of Coolmath Games blogs if you are silk hungry for more: