HomeAcademics & ActivitiesHomework

Bright Ideas From Our Readers: Spelling Struggles

Thanks to the readers who shared games and strategies to help kids with spelling. Their ideas may help your child.

By GreatSchools Staff

GreatSchools readers show that with a little creativity, you can help your child practice spelling in the kitchen, the car and at bedtime. Their ideas may work for your child:

Kitchen Lessons

"Both my second- and third-grader love to practice their spelling words, but only when I sprinkle flour on a jelly roll pan and let them trace the letters in the flour," mom Lea Johnson writes.

Rainbow Writing

Connecticut mom Allison Plymouth, has tried a number of games with her four children:

"Some great ideas I have used to help my kids remember their spelling words are:

  • Rainbow writing (trace over the word several times with different colored pencils, pens etc...saying each letter as they trace it)
  • Creating a sheet with several columns labeled read the word, write the word, cover and spell (where they spell the word out loud)
  • Writing each letter in a square, cutting them apart and putting them in order - this is a favorite!"

Car Games

"Spelling is a challenge for my youngest son who is now in the third grade," a Dewey, Arizona, mother of two boys writes. "We have made spelling a game for him while we are riding in the car. If he has a question....he has to spell it out to us. We spell back our answers. He really loves this, and it really gets the whole family involved in helping him with both his spelling and reading ability. This also makes a ride in the car go by a lot faster."

Sandbox Spelling

From a New Hampshire mother of two:

"My son had a problem spelling orally so he wrote the words in sand. We made a small indoor sandbox from a clear plastic storage bin filled with clean play sand. … This helped get the words into his motor memory not just his brain memory. He was calmed by the feel of the sand."

She adds: "I also think parents should evaluate the types of words that are in the weekly list. It is very hard for many students if the words are unrelated and have different language rules. Focusing on words that are similar in the root form or grammar rule makes memorizing easier. One week my son had a list of all Spanish words from an English based curriculum. Needless to say, he did not do well as we could offer no help in language rules."


One parent used index cards to craft a game of Memory from the spelling list after she found out her son was failing spelling. You can, too:

  • Write each spelling word on two different cards.
  • Turn them upside down and mix them up.
  • Spread them out on a flat surface, face down.
  • Have your child start by turning over two cards at a time. The goal of the game is to find the two cards with the same word.
  • Have your child say and spell the word on the cards as he turns them over.
  • Then, proceed as you would in a regular game of Memory. If the cards match, remove them from the game. If they don't, turn them over and try again until all the cards have been removed.

"After doing this together a few times he got them all right on his tests," this mom reports. "It was much more exciting than saying the word out loud and asking him to spell it."

Comments from readers

"Reading all these great ideas of reinforcing spelling in our children was depressing to say the least. I homeschool my 6 & 8yr. olds who have had a very strong phonics foundation so once they see & spell their weekly lists they don't need my help. I'm all for reinforcing but if our schools would teach what works best (i.e. phonics blends)our children wouldn't be at such a disadvantage. I have learned that if children can't read well, they can't spell well so they can't write creatively due to their lack of confidence. Most spelling is based on rules of phonics NOT memorization. Your kids futures are looking quite bleak. I highly suggest to any mom who is able, to homeschool in the early years. Teachers need to wake up to what our schools are lacking. A solid phonics curriculum! In the meantime, I'll keep teaching my kids at home."
"Practice visualizing the words Some of our most avid readers have poor visual memory and so have difficulties in spelling. Try having them close their eyes and practice picturing the word. They can then say each letter as they 'see' it! Tell them to try this on the next test, but make sure not to say the letter outloud! Just say it in their minds. Otherwise, there may be trouble!"