Teaching Your Child How to Spell

Girl playing with magnetic letters

Arthur Tilley / Stockbyte / Getty Images

If you’re like most parents, you spend a lot of time helping your child learn how to spell. While many of us do so by having the child spell the word aloud, that only goes so far in helping the child master the writing and comprehension skills that they will need in class.

So, rather than limiting yourself to a spelling bee, try these non-verbal forms of teaching:

Create Flashcard Games for Spelling Words

You can create a quick set of flashcards with a pen and a pack of index cards and use them in the following ways to teach spelling, comprehension, and penmanship skills:

  • To teach spelling, write a series of age-appropriate words on the index cards. Read each word aloud and ask your child to write the word on the back of the card. You can then review the spelling together.
  • To teach comprehension, layout all of the flashcards face side up. You can then read a definition aloud and ask your child to pick the card that matches the definition.
  • To teach penmanship, provide your child with some tracing paper to place over the flashcard. They can then trace to word with a pencil and, afterward, flip the card to spell the word again without guidance.

Create a Spelling Memory Game

For this, you would create two sets of flashcards using white and colored index cards. On the white cards, you would write a series of age-appropriate words. On the colored cards, write the corresponding definition.

To play the game:

  • Arrange the flashcards in a grid pattern face side down. There would be one set of white and one set of colored cards.
  • Each player would take turns picking one white and one colored card. If the word and definition match, the player would keep the cards. If not, they would replace them.
  • Players would have to use their memory to match up as many cards as possible. When all the cards are gone, the player with the most wins.

Repetition is key to learning and retaining word comprehension.

Use Scrabble Tiles

There are different ways to use Scrabble tiles to teach spelling and comprehension skills. Among the options:

  • Ask your child to arrange the tiles alphabetically from A through Z.
  • Ask your child to pick out just the vowel tiles.
  • Have your child use the tiles to spell out a word or sentence.
  • Write out a simple sentence and ask your child to change the verb tense as you change the subject from single to plural (or vice versa).
  • Write out a simple sentence and ask your child to change the subject from single to plural (or vice versa) as you change the verb tense.

Create Word Tiles

Instead of buying word magnets from the store, cut out words from a magazine or newspaper. Make sure they are not too small to handle.

How to Create Effective Word Tiles

Depending on the age of your child, you would need to ensure there is an ample number of nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, conjunctions, prepositions, and interjections to play with.

You could also spice things up by cutting out punctuation marks.

Among the various things you can do:

  • Ask your child to create a sentence with the word tiles. You can then add conjunction (such as "and" or "or") or a preposition (like "from" or "behind") to end of the sentence and ask your child extend the thought.
  • You can ask your child to rearrange the words in a sentence as you change the closing punctuation (such as changing a period to a question mark).
  • You can ask your child to read a sentence aloud with a period and then to read it again after inserting a question mark or exclamation point.

The sillier the game, the better.

Use Your Computer

The computer can be used as both a teaching medium and spelling resource. Among some of the quick and easy ideas:

  • Use a Word document as the template to teach spelling and sentence structure. Online tools like Grammarly can provide instant spell and grammar check.
  • Use an online dictionary to test your child's comprehension of a word. Ask your child to define a certain word and then to type it in correctly to see what the dictionary says. This is probably the most appropriate for a third or fourth grader.
  • Use the free Spelling City website which offers plenty of word and spelling games for elementary-school-age children. A premium paid version is also available.
  • Use the free Discovery Education puzzle maker tool to create custom word search, crossword, letter tile, cryptogram, and hidden message games.