EFL Games for Spelling Practice

Spelling is often an activity for children, and these EFL games for spelling practice are mostly for young learners. Some of these games can also be used to practice vocabulary and reading.

It's better for spelling practice to involve writing down the words, rather than spelling aloud. This practice is more natural, as we normally have to spell when we write, and much easier, even for native speakers. Therefore most - but not all - of these EFL games for spelling follow this practice.


Word Circle works well for younger children. Write a word on the board that the students know. For example: "long." The students must then give you a word beginning with the final letter of this word, 'g.' If the example is "good," the students spell "good," then must think of a word beginning with 'd,' and so on.

Magnetic Letters This is a listen and write activity, but using magnetic letters on the whiteboard. You will need at least 4 sets of magnetic letters and a whiteboard. Say the word and the students race to spell the letter on the board. The first team to spell it correctly wins.

Writing Contest - Say a word, that the students may find hard, but have studied before, and they write it on the board. If your board is wide, they can work in teams of 3. If you want, sitting members of the team can find the words in their books and tell their classmates - who cannot look.

You can also ask a question which they must answer in writing on the board. This is a very simple spelling activity, but usually enjoyable activity. It can also be done on pieces of paper which the students then give to the opposite team to check - or which the teachers checks. With a larger class it's not possible to check all, so spot checks need to be done.

A variation of this which works well for higher levels is instead of giving the word, give a definition of the word. For example if the word is 'expert' you may say, "A person who knows a lot about a subject." The students then write the word, on the board or on pieces of paper. This is of course, also practicing vocabulary.

Copy Game EFL games for spelling can be very simple activities. Just copying from the board is an effective spelling activity, and can easily be made into a game.

Write a piece of continuous text on the board. Then underline 4 or 5 words in one color, and another 4 or 5 in a different color. The words must be of about equal difficulty.

One team then copies down all the blue words, the other team copies the green words. Teams then exchange papers and search for mistakes. The team with the fewest mistakes wins. Another variation of this is for a student from each team to circle a word, which the students copy. The other team checks for mistakes.

Hangman is one of the most popular EFL games for spelling. It can be played with single words or sentences. The teacher (or a student) draws dashes to represent letters on the board. The students guess the letters. You can have the students ask, "Is there a T in it?" etc. For beginners you can use guided hangman. Here you either tell the students it is a color, and they can guess or use a poster or page in their student's book to search for possibilities; or you can fill in some of the gaps yourself, to get them started. Hangman makes a good cooler for the class.

Crosswords can be made (and saved for future classes) fairly easily. Students work individually at first, then (if wished) they can work in groups of the whole class together to solve the clues.

Happily Henry is a spelling aloud game that can be fun to play. A student from one team says "sunny Audrey." Audrey must spell 'sunny' correctly. If she does her team gets a point, and she asks a member of the opposing team a different word. If she spells the word wrong, the asking team gets a point, and the asker can choose another student to ask, and so on.

Categories is another one of the EFL games for spelling using vocabulary sets. Create 4 or 5 categories (fruit, insects, verbs, school subjects..). Say a letter and the students write a word in each category that begins with this letter. This can be done on the board, or on pieces of paper.

The game is continued with more vocabulary categories. Certain 'easy' words - ones which they have no problem spelling - can be excluded. It is useful to allow the students to copy from their coursebooks or any wall posters in the classroom.

Scrabble is a popular board game, where the players must make spell words which link with the words already on the board. This is a good end of term activity. It's not a good idea to play the game too much, as it's leisurely and students tend to spell well known words, rather than practicing spelling newer, less familiar words. Scrabble can be used with all ages and levels.

Completing the Word Several words, with some letters missing, are written on the board. Clues can be given. For example, "lonely," (to feel you have few friends). If students need help they can consult their books/dictionaries, if the teacher wants. A time limit is given, the team with the most correctly spelt words within the time, wins. For children, elementary-intermediate.

A-Z Game All students stand up. Each student says a letter of the alphabet in turn. If they don't know the next letter, they have to sit down. The object is to be the last one standing. This activity needs to be done briskly.

Circle the word is popular ESL game for younger children. Write, and have the children write, several words on the board. The students line up in teams at the board. The first in each line has a marker. Call out a word and the students with markers circle it.

Award a point to the first team to circle the correct word. Multiple attempts at circling words shouldn't be allowed. The next person in the line takes the marker, and the game continues.

Words Using... - Write 5 or 6 letters in a circle on the board. If you want you can choose a compulsory letter (a vowel). The students must write down as many words as they can, in pairs, only using the letters given. They don't have to use all of the letters in each word.


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