Wicked Smart

Top 10 strategies for helping your child to spell

7+, English advicejudith aitken

Helping your child to become a super speller is no mean feat for teachers and families. At times it can seem like that ‘lightbulb’ moment is never going to happen, and too often spelling practice can become a laborious task.

To save your sanity (we’re talking to children as well as parents and educators here!), we’ve collated a list of our favourite suggestions for turning spelling revision into F-U-N! These short, sharp tasks - aimed at KS1 children - can be shoe horned into the daily routine, and with any luck your children will develop their spelling skills as well as having a good old time!

In true ‘Top of the Pops"‘ style (shout out to those who appreciate the reference), here are our top 10 suggestions for creating super spellers!

10. ‘Code words’ poster

To the naked eye, it may look like merely a laminated sheet of paper, but oh no. This poster is so much more. Encourage your child to channel their inner Jason Bourne by use their spelling words as secret codes to enter and exit the classroom or house. Dictate one of their spelling words and ask your child to both orally spell the word and write it down on the poster. Successful spellers will be granted entry. (Disclaimer: we are not suggesting that children are banished from said classroom/house forever if their spy spelling skills aren’t yet up to scratch).

9. Read all about it!


When learning the first 100 high frequency words, encourage your child to become a detective and ‘hunt’ for the words in newspapers and magazines. Providing a magnifying glass helps to give this activity that little edge, not to mention the fact that it is an essential piece of detective kit. Time your child as well, how quickly are they able to find a list of 10 words? No pressure, kids! For a nosy at the full list of high frequency words, follow this link: http://www.highfrequencywords.org/first-100-high-frequency-word-lists.html

8. Buzz off!

fly swatter.jpg

You know that time is tight when the fly swatter comes out! If you only have a spare 5 minutes to work on spelling, jot down your child’s spelling words on post it notes and spread them across the table. Your child needs to ‘swat’ the word that you shout out, then challenge themselves by turning the post it over and either spelling the word aloud or writing it down.

7. Make it sensory.


There are so many ideas online about how to make spelling a sensory experience. From writing in shaving foam, to making words from playdough, using the senses really does help to ingrain spelling patterns in children’s minds. Our new favourite idea involves paint and a zip lock bag. Squeeze a small amount of paint into the bag, zip, and voila! Your child has an instantly erasable surface to work on their weekly spellings.

6. Mnemonics (funnily enough, not an easy word it itself to spell)


We challenge you to find a classroom where the word ‘because’ isn’t spelt using a variant of this mnemonic. Creating a silly mnemonic on the school run can really help to jog children’s memory of how to spell a word. What’s more, by creating their own mnemonics, children are using their imagination and are receiving a well earned rest from endless rote learning strategies. It is also a proven strategy for those who find reading difficult or for children with dyslexia.

5. Repetition

Sometimes there is just no getting away from the fact that some words just need to be learnt off by heart. Good old fashioned repetition needs to be relied on here, but there are ways of making this an exciting spelling strategy. Try playing the game ‘ZAP!’ Create multiple flashcards of the words that your child is finding tricky, and also create some flashcards that simply say ‘ZAP!’. Place them in a container, give them a good shake and take it in turns to choose a card. If your child pulls out a spelling word, they need to turn the card over and spell it aloud. If successful, they can keep the card. The game continues in this fashion until a ‘ZAP’ card is drawn. When this happens, all cards are put back in the container and the game starts again.

We have created our very own spelling games pack with this game included. Our version of ‘ZAP’ links directly to the National Curriculum Year 3 and 4 statutory spelling list https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/239784/English_Appendix_1_-_Spelling.pdf which is regularly used in 7+ and 8+ assessments. Purchase your instantly downloadable spelling pack today via our website : https://www.wicked-smart.co.uk/new-products/7-spelling-pack


 4. Chunk it up

When learning to read and write, the very first thing children are taught is to recognise phonemes - what sounds different letters make. Try utilising this strategy when helping your child to spell. To jazz it up a little, write the tricky words on A3 paper then physically cut them into chunks e.g. SH, O, P

If your child is a fan of the outdoors, use giant chalk to write the word on the ground and draw lines between the letters to show how it can be segmented. Another idea is to use lego blocks with sounds written on the front, where children can literally build the word chunk by chunk. Also a favourite for the livelier breed of children is to use hoola hoops, where children jump into the hoops to spell the word, shouting out the sounds each time. Segmenting sounds then blending them together is the foundation of all literacy, so it might help your child to go back to basics and give this strategy a whirl!

3. Highlight it

Unfortunately we’re not talking about honey golden streaks and a blow dry here, instead we’re thinking more along the lines of spelling patterns. It’s best to tackle spelling by looking at one pattern or rule at a time. For example, one week you may be revising words containing ‘ay’ or ‘o_e’. Write down a list of words and give your child a set amount of time to find and highlight words containing the same pattern. Up the ante by writing out the words, but leaving spaces where the sound should be. Can you child crack the code and recognise which sound is missing?

2. Rely on the iPad

Too often parents are made to feel guilty for allowing their child ‘screen time’. We say go for it! There are so many fantastic educational apps available now, and many of them focus on the development of spelling. Our favourites at the moment are:

  1. Make it purposeful

    An obvious one to finish with, but potentially the most important thing to consider when working on spelling with your child. Like anything, if the task you are working on has a genuine purpose, it increases the likelihood of becoming intrinsically motivated, and this strategy allows children to see how spelling is used in our everyday lives. To make spelling practice purposeful, there may need to be some slight ‘engineering’ on the parents’ side - little white lies if you will! For example, show your child the shopping list you made (littered with spelling mistakes) and see if they can help you fix the multiple errors.

    Other ideas including writing for an audience, where children begin to realise that in order for information to be understood, it needs to be spelt correctly - perhaps a weekly menu of what’s for dinner, a poster of house rules or writing letters or emails to family members.

    We love ‘Kidblog’, where children are able to create their own blog, and what’s even better is that teachers have access to the blogs and are able to safely share the accounts with other students and schools.

    Spelling workbooks do have their place, but opening your children’s eyes to the fact that spelling is a ‘real life’ thing, and not just a boring classroom exercise is perhaps the most important lesson we can teach.


As ever, we would love to hear of the spelling strategies that you find most successful with your children and pupils! Please get in touch to share your ideas by commenting below or emailing us at Judith@wicked-smart.co.uk

Happy spelling!