Number one for English language teachers

Skills: under the spell of spelling

Level: Starter/beginner, Elementary, Pre-intermediate, Intermediate, Upper intermediate, Advanced Type: Teaching notes

English spelling? “Wonderful! I love it!” If that isn’t your students’ reaction, you might like to try some of these ideas.


  1. New spelling and old

    Write some “new” spellings on the board – the kind of thing you find on product packaging, advertising posters, songs etc. Include items like: Tonite, Midnite, Luv, Lite, Thru, 4U, Snax, Thanx, Gonna, Kleen, Gotta, Wanna, Cos etc. Explain that these are spellings people use but they are not considered the correct spelling. Small groups: students must translate the new spellings into more normal versions. The team with the most correct answers wins.

  2. Teacher can’t spell!

    Rather than correcting students’ spelling errors, why not let them correct yours? Write a short letter to students (e.g. your thoughts about how the course is going) but make at least 20 spelling mistakes (some obvious, some quite hard to notice). Give them the letter and let them enjoy reading it. Wait patiently until someone tells you you’ve made a mistake. Explain that you were tired and may have made more. Can they find them?

  3. Sounds and spellings

    Write a phoneme on the board. Brainstorm how many different spellings (with example words) students can think of for the sound.

  4. Missng lettes

    Rite a vry shot txt nd leve on leter ut f ech wrd. Studens mst wrk ut th mising leters nd rite th crrect vrsion.

  5. Codes

    Write a message in code which students have to decipher into normal spelling. Use a simple code such as (a) changing the location of spaces e.g. thi sisa nex am pleo fit (b) a sequential letter-for-letter substitution e.g. A=C, B=D, C=E etc (c) writing words backwards e.g. si ti drah ot daer? With stronger classes give them the coded message – but don’t tell them the code – can they work it out before you tell them?

  6. Time travel spelling

    … or write a message using oghams or runes. You can find illustrations of these ancient alphabets on many web sites if you search for one of those names. Print them out and let your students work out your message – then write some of their own.

  7. 100% gap-fill

    Prepare a text of five or six sentences and write it on the board but with only space markers (as in Hangman) for the ENTIRE text. Tell the students something about the story and then ask them to guess words (not letters – that’s too easy).

Don’t help too much. Only write up words when they say them and get the spelling exactly right. This task sounds difficult – and it definitely is at the beginning – but it is also enjoyable, challenging and possible (because the students will quickly work out that most texts have “and” and “is” and “to” etc). After a while it becomes easier and easier.

 

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