Ideas for Helping Older Students Who Struggle with Spelling

Need some fresh ideas to teach spelling. This post features 7 ideas for helping older students who struggle with spelling. Stay tuned to the end for FREE spelling worksheets that provide classwork and homework practice with spelling.

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Resources for Literacy Instruction

This post is a part of a series on helpful content geared toward literacy instruction in upper elementary classrooms. Here are the other posts to check out once you’ve read all of this post:

Posts with * beside their titles have free downloads available!

Does Spelling Even Matter Anymore?

The rise of technology has caused a debate on whether we should even continue teaching spelling in the classroom; especially for older students.

With auto-correct, should we care whether students can spell or not?

YES! Think of the many times autocorrect has failed you:

  • When there are two spellings that could be used for one word
  • Grammatical issues related to spelling like it’s vs. its, your vs. you’re

Plus spelling, reading, and writing go hand-in-hand. As your students build stronger spelling skills, they could also become stronger writers.

Click the image to see more details on word work centers like this one.

Spelling Games for Older Kids

To take the boredom out of spelling practice, I incorporate game boards with spelling centers in my classroom.

Popular gameboards like Chutes and Ladders have easy-to-understand instructions and set-up, which makes them great for spelling practice.

I keep our grade-appropriate sight words and commonly misspelled words in a rotating deck of these amazing dry-erase index cards.

Students use that deck of spelling cards with the gameboard rules and pieces. It never gets old because kids love playing the game, so they don’t mind the spelling work that comes along with it.

Teach Word Families for Spelling Practice

literacy centers for fourth grade the butterfly teacher
These word families mats for 4th Graders can be found in my Teachers Pay Teachers store under Literacy Centers. Click the image for more details.

Most older students who struggle with spelling also struggle with phonics and decoding. They lack an understanding of phonemes, phonograms, and word parts.

One way to help older students strengthen this skill is with word family practice. My kiddos have word family cards with root words in the shape of a triangle. (Just like the picture shown.) 

They can work with a partner or independently during our literacy centers to spell new words using the root or base word.

I put these materials in a dry erase folder with these type of markers.

Students are challenged to keep a total of all the new words they spelled so that they can “beat” their total each time.

The goal of this spelling activity is to get students sounding out and putting together word parts. Adding the challenge helps prevent the feeling that it’s a “baby activity” with older kids.

Online Spelling Games

Another idea for helping older students who struggle with spelling involves technology.

There are amazing online programs and apps that help older kids practice their spelling. Spelling City is one of my favorites!

With the free account, I can I create several lists during the time when I am planning out my full school year in advance. 

My kids can also practice these spelling games at home for additional practice, during our literacy center rotations, or when they finish something early.

Related Post: The BEST Free Apps for Building Literacy

Use Hands-On Spelling Activities

Including hands-on spelling activities and centers is a great way for older students to grow stronger with spelling.

One way to do this is to use the Double Bananagrams Set and Scrabble letters with different activities in your classroom for spelling practice.

My students also thrive with spelling when I use seasonal centers that allow them to practice applying common spelling rules.

This Shamrock Spelling activity also comes with a fun SCOOT game! Click the image for details.

For instance, this Shamrock Spelling is a word work center that I use during March / Spring. Students must match the correctly spelling word to it’s shamrock based on the spelling rule.

Then they use the changed spelling word in a complete sentence, which reinforces the spelling practice.

Play Spelling Games That Allow Collaboration

Another really engaging way to help older students who struggle with spelling involves team games that allow collaboration.

One of my favorite spelling games to play with the whole class is Spelling Showdown. πŸ€—

Here’s how we play:

  • I divide the class into two teams.
  • Two players line up at a time to compete for their team.
  • I call out a spelling word or sight word that we are working on for the week.
  • The two students run to the whiteboard to write it down. The first one to spell it correctly (and legibly!) wins a point for their team.
  • Repeat this process until the game ends.

Students love the high-energy of this game! I love how they get to work together. That can help older students who struggle with spelling to learn from their peers for improved spelling.

Decoding & Word Work Activities for Older Students

As I mentioned earlier, one reason for spelling struggles among older students has to do with a lack of decoding and phonics skills.

Click the image to see more details on this standards-aligned word work center.

So another spelling activity that helps challenges students to add the correct suffixes and prefixes to base words, which requires them to change the spelling of the word.

I use a Word Family Roll Maker. (shown in the image above) This word work activity has base words that I print on colorful paper, hole punch, then place on a book ring.

Then students get to roll a dice to determine which prefix or suffix to add to the base word. Students must correctly spell the new word with its affix, then use the word in a complete sentence.

Not only does this give them a chance to practice their spelling, but it’s also a clever way to get students writing more.

A Post You Might Like: 6 Easy Ways to Teach Grammar

Spelling Activity for ANY List

Another fun way I help my older students who struggle with spelling is with an activity I call “Emoji-Code.”

Students are given emojis that represent the letters of the alphabet. They create words based on those emojis.

Then they switch papers with a partner who has to “crack the code” and write the correctly spelled word.

Cracking the code requires staying focused and working carefully. They can’t rush through this assignment!

My 4th graders can’t get enough of this activity! They LOVE emojis. So this provides on-going spelling practice that keeps them engaged.

In fact, I have several sets of these spelling activities that can be used with any list. Watch the video for more details.

You can grab this set of Spelling Activities to use with ANY spelling list by CLICKING HERE. These activities can be used online or in the physical classroom.

FREE Spelling Worksheets

Becoming a better speller takes time and consistent practice. Hopefully, these tips will help you get the ball rolling on helping your older students who struggle with spelling.

If you are interested in FREE Spelling worksheets for homework or classwork practice, click the image below.

No email required. Happy Teaching  πŸ¦‹

The Butterfly Teacher

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