Wanting my sons to love words and spelling as much as I do, I was anxious when I started to teach spelling. And there was plenty I did wrong, but there was a lot I did right. I want to ease your fears by sharing this list of 21 hands-on ideas to teach homeschool spelling because playing with letters and learning sounds in the beginning builds a solid foundation into adulthood.
Holding my sons responsible for their spelling from the time we started doing formal spelling lessons until they graduated high school was key. But good spellers don’t start with formal lessons.
Spelling, like the three Rs, is a skill subject. This means you look for a period of readiness that comes before formal steps. Children need time to explore with letters, sounds and parts of words until they formally put them together. Don’t rush it like I started off doing. That is why it’s called preschool. Pre-reading, pre-math, and pre-spelling come before formal lessons.
Backing up, I put away my formal lessons in Kindergarten to be sure my first son had plenty of time to explore the concept that a symbol or letter represented a sound. Teaching my children after him followed that same pattern.
I’m here to tell you, at the beginning stages it’s not so important to teach letter names as it is the sound they represent.
This doesn’t mean you have to push aside playing an ABC game in spelling, but try to think in terms of how spelling flows into reading.
Reading is partially about memorizing words but strategies for attacking unknown words begins with solid spelling skills.
As you begin applying 21 hands-on ideas to teach homeschool spelling, remember that you’re building a foundation for spelling mastery. And by communicating with your child every day, he has already picked up a lot about spelling through natural interaction with you.
I had wished that mindset was something I valued more at the time, but it’s hard to appreciate that when you feel you may mess up your kids for life. Right?
Although it wasn’t back in covered wagon times when I started homeschooling like my boys think, it was back before more information was available about using a multi-sensory approach.
That is just educational jargon for learning to take information in through more than one sense. Learning hands-on and through sight makes the language of spelling stick.
Here’s how to do it.
1. Write in chocolate pudding. No arguments from the kids – ever. Yogurt works great too.2. Write using candy licorice. Using a clean pair of kid-friendly scissors, my boys cut the shapes of letters and stuck them in white icing on a graham cracker. Yum. That is the way I got their sugar in for the day.
3. Write in salt.
4. Write on a chalkboard.
5. Cut out letters from card stock and spell words.
6. Write with a squirt bottle of water or paint on sidewalk.
7. Write with a paintbrush dipped in paint.
8. Write in shaving cream.
9. Paint on small rocks. The boys also loved this activity. They would play for hours arranging the rocks to spell words.
10. Form words and letters using play-doh.
11. Form words and letters using edible peanut butter dough.
Hands down this was a favorite for my boys. It worked beautifully with each son as they showed readiness. I timelessly used this recipe of powdered milk, peanut butter and honey over and over again.
And unless your kids are allergic to peanut butter dough, you’ll love using this recipe for letters, words and teaching ending and beginning sounds.
12. Match pictures or cards with sounds. Toys and manipulatives always engage young children. Buying a few games and educational learning supplies early, I was able to use them extensively with each child.13. Use music for singing and spelling words. Big books aren’t just for a classroom. My kids fell in love with them at home. I used them for teaching spelling.
We listened to the music, while looking at the letters and singing along R – E – D red.
The wonderful thing about this is that a child can touch the letters, point to them while listening to the words and letters through music. It’s a way to learn through another mode.
Spelling Super Tips
14. Use magnetic letters.
Magnetic letters placed on the refrigerator and at the height of the your child encourages him to learn letters and practice spelling in quick learning spurts. This timeless teaching tips still works in today’s techie world.
15. Write with a magnetized pen to trace over letters.
16. Write using a trace erase board. I had no idea when I purchased the trace erase board how much I would use them through the years. I started using them spelling practice and purchased other pages to insert inside them for other skills. I loved these because I could take them with us.
The kids write on the acrylic face. In other words, unlike slipping a page into a plastic sleeve, your kids always have a hard surface to write on. There is a space between the face and the backboard to insert pages. You can change out the skills. Writing, erasing and practicing kept my kids learning for a long time.17. Use alphabet sound teaching tubs. I bought a set of tubs and used them for several years with each child as they came along. When I bought them they were not as expensive as they are now; I bought mine from Lakeshore Learning. I think this alphabet object set is just as good if you don’t have time to hunt for one or make your own.
Something else you can do is to make your own set. Save small plastic dishes with lids or buy an inexpensive set at a dollar store and collect miniature dollar store toys.
I did this too and it works great although some letter sounds are hard to find.
18. Hole punch letters. This is what I call a two-fer. Not only do your kids work on their fine motor skills more directly, but they learn their letters.
19. Write using stencil sets.
This also was a big hit at my home. Finding a large size stencil is not hard. These Karty Large Alphabet Stencils work great for coloring, placing glue in the area and pouring glitter (uggg, not my favorite, but the kids loved it), tracing and filling in with tiny pom poms, cereal, beans, play-doh or paint.
20. Match letters-the fun way. This is an easy project you can set up at any time.
Instead of drawing lines on a boring page to match lettters get creative to make it hands-on and engaging. For example, I used a slab of play-dough to form a big square. Creating two columns, I placed plastic letters on each side and my husband’s golf tees (he “lost” several that way) above each letter. My boys used yarn to match the letters.
21. Hit a balloon up in the air. This is great for boys because they can hit something and not each other. I know, I used it with each son and it always returned great learning results.
Blow up a bag of balloons, use a marker, and write one letter on each balloon. Your kids can play, hit the balloon in the air while saying the letter or sound. This works great for pretty well anything like numbers, math facts, and cvc words. I know that is beside the point, but when beginning to teach it takes time to get the teaching wheels turning so I’m hoping it will get your creative juices flowing.
Having used numerous spelling programs but without a multi-sensory approach, I was delighted to be able to use All About Spelling when it came out.
It truly is one of the best spelling programs I’ve used and I’ve used many. I know you’ll love how easy All About Spelling makes spelling now.
I hope these tips will help you to teach spelling in a way that make your children become master spellings because they worked for me!
What spelling ideas have worked for your kids?
Do you want to see how this step leads to the next one?
Look here at how early letter writing and spelling blossoms into beautiful writing. Teaching Handwriting When Homeschooling the Early Years Part 1, Teaching Handwriting When Homeschooling the Early Years Part 2 and Teaching Handwriting When Homeschooling the Early Years Part 3.
Hugs and love ya,
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