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Teaching Spelling

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Sure, we could learn all kinds of spelling words and follow some age-appropriate program, but it’s more fun than that. To learn spelling in this house, we pull out the Scrabble board. Both sides of the family are Scrabble maniacs. At family gatherings with my side, the Scrabble board sits and waits for anyone to make a move. Quick game to 50 points while the kale steams? Totally. Brutal 500 point scoring competition? Yes please! This is something that the Little-Bugs have watched parents and extended family enjoy since they could form memory and they are thrilled when they get to join in.

So it’s almost a ritual initiation, as well as a spelling lesson…

But let’s go back and cover some of the “Hows” of this spelling method.

Get a spare set of Scrabble or Bananagrams tiles – make sure it is actually spare so that tiles can get lost without impacting the family game set. Set your child up with the tiles, face up, on a tray and see what they can spell without your assistance. Brother-Bug made me laugh out loud when he deftly pulled “CRUD” out of his pile. Talk about the different words you can see. If they start to get frusterated, put together a good two-letter “starter” (like RA) and ask them what letters they can add to make a word.

Brother-Bug contemplates his Banangram options.

Play games of Banangrams – play next to each other so they can spell, you can help, and they can watch the process that an adult goes through to make the word grid. They will also grain new vocabulary this way – double score! Play a combined game with one word grid, working together to find the silliest (grossest, biggest…) words and make them fit.

Let them figure out correct spellings and make mistakes. Help them find the correct answer, but don’t provide it right away. In a recent game we went through several permutations to get to the correct spelling of “OUT”. English is so hard for spelling – with silent letters, dipthongs, and other abnormalities galore. I truly believe that just playing the games makes in-roads into this complex language of ours in ways that standard spelling programs miss. And it’s super fun, which makes the “lesson” more effective.

Get out The Scrabble Board. When you start out with a new speller, have them team up with a grown-up until they want their own set of tiles.

My dad teaching Brother-Bug the ropes…just like he taught me. And I am an awesome speller…

 Play open tiles – everyone helps everyone else spell, no secrets. The new speller gets to see each person’s way of finding words in the mish-mash of letters. To that end, verbalize your process; talk about what words you can spell, what you can almost spell, etc.

Go for a combined score instead of individual scores so that everyone is contributing instead of competing. For an added learning bonus, adding up the word scores is a great math lesson. Adding, doubling, trippling…

Have the adults play on high-speed so the kids don’t get bored. Grown-up Scrabble players can get really bogged down in the rearranging of their letters and the many possible words – which one is the best? where can it fit? An adult Scrabble turn can take… … … forever. Adults should spell words fairly quickly and move on.

With any of these games, stop when the enjoyment and attention of the new speller wanes. Keep it fun and fresh and special. There is no reason that you have to play to the last tile.


Brother-Bug loves that he has been initiated into our world of Scrabble and Bananagrams. Playing with the grown-ups until late at night (9:45!) really made his day. Sister-Bug enjoyed drawing tiles for me and working on counting up to 3. Papa-Bug and I enjoyed having the Scrabble board out for a while. Everyone wins. Everyone learns.

Happy Spelling!


One response »

  1. I still adore the wonder of scrabble, as my dad taught us and I taught you guys the same way he played with us to enjoy the delights of helping one another and making our joint score to biggest and best so we were all winners. And, of course, I am a tremendous speller and player. Also, we played the game of using one big word, i.e. procrastination and finding all the 3 letter or more words in it. Another great way to learn spelling in a family that did not have money for many games etc., but loved to play together. There is no one faster at Jumble word puzzles that we are.


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