How to Make Spelling Games Work for Kids Who Struggle With Spelling

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Our family loves to play games, but with a couple of dyslexic children in the mix I often hear a resounding,

“No thanks”,

when asking if anyone would like to play a word or spelling game.
Bananagrams
I understand, who wants to play a game they most likely won’t win? But I knew that with a little bit of thought and tweaking we could find a way to use word games like boggle and Bananagrams in a way that would be fun for everyone.

 

So many spelling games are based on a strategy of being the fastest at accomplishing something,  But with a little ingenuity you can turn many spelling games that race against the clock into fun learning experiences for everyone. Here are several of my favorite word-oriented games and how we tweak the way you play to benefit those struggling spellers.

1. Big Boggle
– Just shake up the letters and start to spell. This game is great because it takes critical thinking skills to connect the letters to form words. The more you play the more you will naturally begin connecting the letters. But keep in mind the children who make these connections more slowly.

Try these ideas:

  • This is a great game to play solitaire style. No competition means no losing.
  • We have given children a ‘handicap’ by letting them have an extra 20 seconds either at the beginning or the end. The end seems to work best. Simply have the other children turn their paper over when the timer goes off and give the struggling student a little extra time.
  • If you have avid spellers playing alongside a younger or struggling speller you can set guidelines that match and challenge each person’s ability. Ex. The struggling speller can use any words he/she finds, but the other spellers maybe can only use words that have over a certain number of letters, such as 4 or 5. It can balance the playing field a bit.

2. Bananagrams


– This game is definitely a sore spot for my youngest dyslexic son. The only way I have him play is by himself. However, this fabulous company has several other word games that are great for the whole family.

  Try these:

– This game is perfect because each player has a turn that is not timed and it gives the player a chance to think about beginning and ending sounds in particular. Easy to learn, easy to play and comes with a variety of options.

  • Pairs in Pears
      – I use this game regularly with my youngest son. It normally is a game that is meant to be timed, but that can be adjusted. When I play with him anyone playing wins if they complete 4 sets of words. I also use this game to drill rhymes. It is very simple. Each pair of words have to rhyme and as the skills increase you will find that doesn’t always mean certain sound will share the same spelling. It is exciting when your struggling speller sees that break and lake rhyme in spite of the differences in how the vowels are spelled. Tiles like the ones in all three of these

Banangram games are nice for building spelling words as well. The only negative is that they are printed with capital letters, but they can be a nice change of pace now and then none-the-less.

Zip-It

    – is also a great crossword style travel game from the Bananagram people. This can also be played solitaire.
They are all worth having.

 

Hangman
– Whether you buy a game version of this game of pull out a piece of paper and make your own board, this game is a favorite. You can even practice a child’s spelling or vocabulary list with this game.  My son loves choosing the word to be figured out. This is important in that he must determine how many blanks he needs to use and where correctly chosen letters need to be placed. Great for strengthening auditory processing skills. I would suggest you have the child show you the word before adding or drawing the spaces and be sure to check each time a letter is added before placing it on the board, but all of this reinforces beneficial skills. The affiliate link I have given is for a take-a-long version with magnetic pieces. We play games like this in the car on road trips.

Don’t misunderstand me, I believe knowing how to win or lose a game gracefully is a character trait that anyone will benefit from but when working with struggling children it is helpful to level the playing field. They already deal with feelings of inadequacy so make sure they have a sporting chance.

I realize this list is only a drop in the bucket where word games are concerned. There is Scrabble, Wordigo, Upwords and a myriad of other games. The games I mentioned in my list just seem to work the best for my children.

So, get down the games, encourage family togetherness and help strengthen spelling skills as you do.

Comments?

I would love to hear how you find creative ways to make spelling practice more palatable for struggling spellers. So please share them now.

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Robin Liner is a wife, and veteran homeschool mom with over twenty years experience. She has written two picture books and actively blogs about homeschooling with an emphasis on teaching dyslexic children at crazygoodreaders.wordpress.com. and athomewithdyslexia.com Feel free to contact her at robin@crazygoodreaders.com

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