Alphabet and spelling games to help students with their A to Z.
Think of a word and draw some dashes on the board, one for each letter __ __ __ __ __ __, each student in turn names a letter that they think might be in the word. If the letter is in the word then write the letter in the appropriate place on the board. W __ __ __ __ W. If the letter isn’t in the word then start to draw the picture of a hanged man and write the used letter under the drawing. Continue either adding new letters to the blanked out word or adding parts to the hangman drawing until either the word is complete (students win) or the hanged man drawing is complete (teacher wins). Discourage the students from shouting out the word, the game isn’t over until it has been properly spelt out.
If you find the hanged man image a bit morbid or culturally sensitive then draw a digital style figure 8 on the board and remove a part every time the students are wrong until there is nothing left.
After playing on the board a couple of times you can invite students to come up to the board with their own words or play a couple of games with their partner.
Group the letters
Draw a table like this on the board, students draw the table in their books and add the remaining letters of the alphabet, invite a student to complete the table on the board. It should look like the table below (unless you teach an Americanised alphabet then ‘Z’ will be in the second box.)
You could also get students to do this in pairs. If that’s the case, here’s a handy template.
Dictate a statement or question for the students, one letter at a time, as a string of uninterrupted letters. For example:
Dictate at a relatively swift pace to prevent students from anticipating what letter is coming next. It doesn’t matter if they miss some letters, they should be able to self-correct after the dictation. If you dictate questions, they can then discuss the answers in pairs and small groups.
To make it more difficult, dictate the word string backwards.
For more dictation activities see this page of dictation activities.
Think of a word and ask the student on your left to spell it, for example, tomato. If successful that student asks the next student to spell a word which begins with the last letter of the last word, for example, orange and so on. If a student isn’t able to spell the word correctly then they are out of the game and the next student attempts the word. The game is over when only one student remains in the game.
Spot the mistake
Using a dictionary or other available resources, students write down five words and deliberately misspell one of them. Students then spell the words on the list to the class who write them down as they are given. Students then decide which word is wrongly spelt.
Divide the class into small groups, give a word to the class and each group decides how it is spelt and writes it on a sheet of paper. Give the group five to ten words. Groups then swap papers and mark each other’s work as you go through the answers.
This classic board game can work well in the ESL classroom, especially with more advanced groups. I sometimes bring it out for the last lesson with a group, to play along with a few snacks and a glass of something fizzy.
This is a long-running game show on British TV. Contestants have to choose random vowels and consonants (nine in the show, I go with ten to twelve) and then teams attempt to make the longest possible word from the letters given. You’ll need a stack of vowels and consonants and you’ll want to rig the deck so that some difficult letters rarely come up (Countdown letter distribution). You could play with a bag of scrabble tiles or try out the web (and Android) app.