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Helping Kids Study for Spelling Tests

Updated on November 4, 2012

Make Studying for a Spelling Test Fun (Really!)

If studying for spelling tests is a battle at your home complete with tears, broken pencils and parents ready to pull out there hair, then you've come to the right place!

We've got a lot of fun ways to help your elementary student prepare for a spelling test. Here are a few general tips to keep in mind before you jump into the fun advice you'll find on this page:

  • Find out how your child learns best! Children have different learning styles. While flash cards may work for one child, they will be torture to the next! For tips on this, do some research on "Multiple Intelligences".
  • Take it one syllable at a time! Kids can get overwhelmed by long spelling words. Take it one syllable at a time and show kids how to break the words into smaller parts when possible
  • Keep the length of study sessions appropriate for your child. This may mean you practice just one or two words at a time.
  • Practice every day! If your child knows the words on Monday, keep practicing them to make sure they still know them on Friday! Continuing to reinforce spelling words will help them to be stored in your child's long-term memory.
  • Take a practice test at home. Find out from your child's teacher what the classroom environment is like during testing. Ask her how she reads the words, how much time children have to write them, etc. Recreate this testing scenario as closely as possible at home. This can take a lot of anxiety away as your child will know what to expect at test time.

Refrigerator Magnet Spelling Tools

Playing spelling games right on your refrigerator! Those magnetic letters can be used for spelling practice for older kids too. Here are some games you can play:

  • Unscramble the spelling words! Before getting a snack from the refrigerator, have your child unscramble the letters you have put up to form one of their spelling words
  • Add the missing letters! Put about half of the letters to a spelling word on the refrigerator and have your child fill in the rest
  • Make a crossword puzzle of your spelling word list

Imaginarium Letters & Numbers - 72 Pieces
Imaginarium Letters & Numbers - 72 Pieces

The traditional refrigerator letters are fun for kids of all ages. Two sets of these will often come in handy so you have enough of each letter to spell longer words.

 
Wild and Wolf Complete Scrabble Refrigerator Game Set Fridge Magnets ABC Letter Alphabet Tiles
Wild and Wolf Complete Scrabble Refrigerator Game Set Fridge Magnets ABC Letter Alphabet Tiles

Make your spelling words into a fun crossword puzzle on the fridge! Magnetic Scrabble is fun for the whole family.

 
Vilac Set of 56 Alphabet Magnets
Vilac Set of 56 Alphabet Magnets

These refrigerator letters have a bit more style to them and are fun for kids to practice their spelling words with.

 

Fun Spelling Tips for Tactile Learners

The sense of touch is how tactile learners learn best!

When my kindergarten son came home with his first spelling list, he was scared. I discovered very quickly that sitting at the table with him to practice his spelling words was not going to work. He was squirming all over the place and started feeling frustrated very quickly. My son is a very tactile child, so I pulled out some shaving cream, sprayed it on a cookie sheet and helped him practice his spelling words!

Here are a few fun ways to practice spelling words for tactile learners

  • Practice writing spelling words in shaving cream! You can model this first, saying the whole word, and then saying each letter aloud as you write it. Then let your child do the same, say the whole word, and say the name of each letter as he/she writes it in the shaving cream. Tactile learners will benefit from the action of hearing and seeing someone model the spelling word, writing out the letters, the memory of the mouth movements to say each letter, and the sensory experience of writing the word in a fun substance!
  • Put some sand on a cookie sheet and draw spelling words with your finger in the sand. Follow the guidelines above of modeling and saying each letter aloud.
  • Sculpt spelling words out of dough. When your child has finished, trace each letter while saying it aloud to help reinforce the word.
  • Build spelling words out of Legos. Trace each letter and say it aloud when you are done.
  • Use magnetic letters to spell out words on the refrigerator. Say the letters aloud and trace them with your finger

For tactile learners, it is usually best to keep things brief. When you see your child start getting distracted, maybe it's time to stop. There isn't any need for everybody getting frustrated. Practice a few words at a time!

My son also does well practicing words while he is building a model with his Legos. When he is busy doing something with his hands, I will give him a spelling word or two to practice out loud. He will often do better spelling out loud when he is playing and has other distractions than in a quiet room while he is trying to only focus on spelling the word.

Learn More About Learning Styles - Find out about multiple intelligences!

If you are interested in learning more about different learning styles and multiple intelligences, there are many great resources that can be found searching the web. Here are a few books you may be interested in checking out as well!

Spelling Tips for Bodily-Kinesthetic Learners

Kids that use their whole body to learn

If you have a child who is constantly on the move, likes sports, or dances around all the time, you may have a bodily-kinesthetic learner.

Here are some fun spelling tips for bodily-kinesthetic learners

  • Hop to it! Hop across the floor on one foot, saying one letter of the word with each hop. Finish off on two feet, saying the whole word aloud as you land.
  • Crank it up! It may seem counter-intuitive, but having music on or having the tv on in the background is actually helpful for many children with this learning style. Let them dance around while reading through or practicing writing their spelling words
  • Give me an A! Have your child use their body to form the letters of the spelling word. Make up a cheer to go along with it.
  • Click it! Computer games are often an effective teaching tool for kinesthetic learners. Typing the spelling words may also be helpful.
  • Pick up the PacePace around the room while looking at the list of spelling words (just don't trip!).

In general, shorter studying sessions work best for kinesthetic learners. Many kinesthetic learners are also very visual, so flash cards can also be an effective tool if used in an active way (bounce on an exercise ball while studying them, or pace around the room). Make sure to have your bodily-kinesthetic learner practice writing out their spelling words. Muscle memory may help them remember the act of writing out the word when test time comes!

Fun Spelling Tips for Musical and Auditory Learners

Spell to the beat!

I'm going to lump auditory and musical learning styles together, even through they are different. For auditory learners, make sure they have plenty of time to hear their spelling words. Let them hear you say and spell them, and make sure they hear themselves say and spell them. Spelling out loud will help auditory learners develop memories and recall the spelling words.

  • Tap out a rhythm I still remember how I was taught to spell the word "people" in elementary school. My teacher would pat alternately on her legs and say in rhythm "P-E-O with a P-L-E." Spelling words to a beat is great for musical and auditory learners!
  • Spell-sing to a familiar tune At three years old, my daughter loved walking around spelling "purple". She sang it to the tune of the Camptown races song (The Camptown ladies sing this song, Doo-da, Doo-da), singing P-U-R-P-L-E, purple, purple and repeating it over and over and over again. Five years later, she still sings this song when spelling! She uses the same tune to practice many six and seven letter words. Try these other tunes to spell to:
    • The Adamms Family Theme Song. The first part of this song works great for four letter words. Try it with "high". H-I-G-H, clap, clap. H-I-G-H, clap, clap. H-I-G-H, H-I-G-H, H-I-G-H clap, clap
    • Bingo is a great tune to sing for many five letter spelling words. Try it out with the word "great". "G-R-E-A-T, G-R-E-A-T, G-R-E-A-T and that's how you spell great."
    • London Bridge Is Falling Down can work for some longer words. Try it with "because." "B-E-C-A-U-S-E, U-S-E, U-S-E, B-E-C-A-U-S-E, U-S-E, U-S-E, that's because."
    • I'm Sexy and I know It. Stay with me here! I don't know where my kids picked this song up (thankfully, they thought the lyrics were "I'm sassy and I know it"), but as long as they know the tune, it can be a great teaching tool! Change it to "I'm spelling and I know it". The part of the song that says "Girl look at my body", change to "Just spell the word __________" x 3. Then change the line "I work out" to the spelling of the word! You can also spell to the "wiggle, wiggle, wiggle, wiggle, wiggle" part of the song, but you'll have to be fast!

    • You can turn just about any tune into a spelling song. Give it a try!

Games that teach spelling - Online, Nintendo DS, Leapster & Traditional Games for Spelling

Your child is going to love to be told that it's time to play a game to practice their spelling words! Spellcity.com lets you put in your child's spelling words for the week and then offers a number of free tests and games to help them practice. Free games include word searches, unscrambling letters to form spelling words and more. They also have additional paid content, but the free content is enough for many kids!

There are also an abundance of traditional games to teach spelling as well as games using technology. Take a look:

Make Spelling Fun!

Take anxiety out of spelling tests by recreating the test environment at home! Find out from your child's teacher how spelling tests are done, how many times the words are said and how long a child has to write each word. Spend extra time practicing the words your child misses in a fun way!

Is Spelling Still Important?

When I was teaching, parents always asked me why schools still bother with spelling tests. Their argument was that most things are done on a computer or other piece of technology and with auto-correct and spell check, we shouldn't be wasting our time teaching spelling in schools. So what do you think?

Should we still be giving spelling tests in school?

Children's Fiction with Spelling Themes - Spelling Themed Books that Girls Love!

Whether you have a reluctant speller or a child eager to enter a spelling bee, these books are fun to read!

Children's Fiction About Dyslexia - Children's Picture Books and Chapter Books about Dyslexia

There are many great resources for both parents and children about dyslexia. This selection of children's fiction includes books for boys and girls with dyslexia, for a variety of ages.

Don't Get Frustrated (that goes for parents too)!

If you or your child start feeling frustrated when studying for a spelling test, take a break! A frustrated parent makes a frustrated child!

Keep study sessions short. Focus on just a few words at a time.

Change it up! Sing the spelling words, spell them with your whole body, write them in the dirt with a stick

Encourage progress. Give out lots of high fives and let your child know how proud you are!

We welcome your comments! How do you help your child study for a spelling test? Were you an anxious test taker and have tips for calming children's nerves before spelling exams? Share your spelling stories with us!

Comments, Questions or Spelling Tips?

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    • WriterJanis2 profile image

      WriterJanis2 5 years ago

      You have some great ideas here.