My second grade homeschooler is not so great at spelling. We’re still in the inventive spelling phase. Which is great. And those creative ways to spell is the sweetest gift from this age. So don’t get me wrong. However, it’s important to work on not just sounding words out, but also thinking through the rules of English. So these are what we’re currently using to introduce games for spelling practice.
How to play games with spelling words
One of the first steps in moving from inventive spelling to correct spelling is understanding the basic rules of English. My second grader sings songs about the “bossy e” making the vowel in the word say its name — basically most words with a silent e have a long vowel instead of a short vowel sound.
Therefore, I always recommend to parents and teachers to play all spelling games with a few good resources like a dictionary and some other books like Uncovering the Logic of English among others. Because as a former high school history and English teacher, I always emphasized that having the right answer wasn’t the gift, rather it was the ability to find and look up the right answers.
Here are a few good English resource books to have on the table while playing games:
An important note: encourage your children or students to use an actual dictionary. Using a digital version doesn’t help them visualized how the word came together. The dictionary, being in alphabetical order, helps even kids subconsciously understand the word spelling better and where it belongs in a list.
Games with spelling words
Whether you’re a homeschooler or a teacher looking for games to practice spelling in the classroom or even just trying to find unique ways to make spelling words for 1st graders all the way through year 5, 6, and beyond into adulthood, we’ve compiled a list of our favorite and best spelling board games.
We believe these are also great games to improve spelling for adults and ESL English language learners.
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Word on the Street
There is also a junior version of this game but the premise is that you have to use certain letters of the alphabet on the board to answer the card. It can easily be played in teams if you’re looking for elementary school students to work on spelling together or it could be played in smaller groups at home or in centers. Grab the game through our affiliate link: Word on the Street.
It helps kids work on their quick spelling skills!
This game encourages players to quickly think of a word relating to a certain category or subject that starts with a certain letter. This is a great way to help early readers and spellers think of beginning sounds.
This is actually a deck building word game! And we loooove deck building games because they create an interesting dynamic as everyone is building their own perceived “best deck”. But it also means that it helps your children build confidence in spelling the words they know and you can play the game cooperatively too.
This is the perfect game for older kids working on spelling and just a fun adult word game.
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Ultimately you compete with the other players to spell words using the letters and wilds in your hand along with common letters that all players can use. Then the points earned by spelling a word help add additional letters to your spelling deck.
This is honestly so much fun! They unfortunately don’t make it anymore, but you can often find it on ebay and even sometimes on Amazon and I have found it at thrift stores often. And you bet I buy it every time to gift to friends, teachers, homeschoolers, etc..
It really is like number yahtzee in that you have to roll for a 3 letter word or all vowels or 2 words. There are seven dice of letters including some that have a diamond/square “wild”. Such a great way to practice both small words like CVC spelling words but also work towards longer spelling words.
Word Scrambles + Variations in play
Lately we have been working on using simple word scrambles. I have started doing this by actually telling her the word and she tries to sound it out. You can easily use bananagrams or scrabble tiles if you have a kinesthetic learner on your hands.
As they get better at thinking through letters and how they work and form words, of course it’s time to drop the part where you actually tell them the word.
What’s also very fun is doing something like dinosaurs or scientific words that even adults might have trouble spelling and reading out the word and have them try to phonetically sound it out to spell it!
As a child, my mom and I would sit and play scrabble with a scrabble dictionary right next to the board. I believe it’s the only reason I didn’t absolutely abhor spelling and why I have a decent understanding of words.
Bananagrams & My First Bananagrams
Once a child can master or at the very least understand scrabble, then banangrams is a great way to increase their processing speed when it comes to spelling and thinking about words in space.
My first Bananagrams is also a great game to practice CVC spelling and rhyming both as a game and just as play manipulatives. Want to use this game for spelling words for kindergarten and first grade? Here’s how to use My First Banangrams in the classroom or homeschool.
My mom still plays variations of boggle on her phone and I remember in the early days of internet watching my mom be the top scorer playing online. So of course, I love this one.
I have found in the many years of playing it, it’s great for kids who are learning to spell and rhyme because if they can identify a common blend like “-at” means they can search out all of the AT words they know like cat, hat, that, spat, etc..
I love almost all the games by the company that makes this. If you are familiar with 5 Crowns it’s actually the letter and word version.
Each round adds in more cards to your hand to rearrange in order to create words. Great for spatial understanding of mixing and matching letters to spell words. Grab your copy in our affiliate link: Quiddler + Variations
The reason we like using this game for spelling is because it shows how words can change ever so slightly over time by adding or changing a letter. So when I talked about Jenn singing about a “bossy e” she can put that into practice with upwords. And the reason this is more powerful than scrabble is that they can see how the bossy e still make a different vowel say its name like if they change the word cave to cove or rope to ripe.
Whereas in Scrabble kids only can change ripe it stripe or something similar with letter additions.
Upwords allows letter variations as well as additions to show the evolution of words and spelling rules.
I am not sure that this game is made anymore or not, but we found it at a thrift store. It’s kind of like scrabble, but the play has to roll dice. Plus it has a fun pirate theme. My 2nd grader likes this a lot more than scrabble.
One of the reasons I prefer it over scrabble is there’s a varied element to how many dice get rolled in a turn as well.
What sets this one apart and makes it fun is that it includes both cards and dice to spell out words as a student sees them. It also separates vowels on the dice and consonants on the cards; this reinforces which is which if kids are learning to differentiate. Buy it through our affiliate link: Wordical.
Sometimes one of the best ways for spelling to “click” for our children is to let them continually see the word with the image. And what I like about playing Headbanz for school is that both readers and non-readers can participate! In fact, even toddlers and preschoolers can enjoy this and over a few years, the words get continually reinforced. You can even make your own cards to use in the head bands to work on spelling words or study a certain theme.
See the variations and buy through our affiliate link: Headbanz