Image of a abstract tree with letters on the leaves

In the classroom, how often do you hear the question “Teacher, how do I spell that?”

While it’s easy for teachers and tutors to quickly spell a word for learners, we want to make sure that learners are gaining the skills that they need to begin to sound words out themselves. For learners who are working on spelling, word families and rhyme is a way to help learners make educated guesses about how new words are spelled, based on other words that sound similar.

children's classroom poster of words that start with B

Learners connect familiar words from their own vocabulary with specific sounds to help them with strengthening their spelling associations.

Materials Needed: whiteboard, marker

  1. Choose a vocabulary word from the week’s unit.
  2. Write the word on the whiteboard, then go through the word letter by letter.
  3. For each letter, ask the learner/s to tell you what sound the letter makes.
  4. Have the learner/s verbally generate a list of words that start with the same sound.

Example: During the unit on community:

Contents of the MN Literacy Council's ESL Pull-Out Phonics Kit

If you are looking for small group or one-to-one activity ideas for adult ESL learners, take a minute to explore the four different ESL pull-out kits. The kits take time off of teacher and tutor preparation by providing volunteers with complete activity instructions and materials for small-group and one-on-one instruction in four different areas: reading, phonics, pronunciation, and citizenship. The kits also provide structured support to volunteers which helps to develop their confidence, build independence and strengthen their teaching skills.

A red pencil making editing corrections on a typed paper

Purpose:  To help learners practice using correct grammar, and to develop proof-reading skills so that learners can become more independent with self-corrections

Preparation Time:  10 minutes

Materials Needed:  A short passage with several errors, or sentences or a worksheet with errors

stepping stone path through water

Purpose:  To reinforce spelling in a fun and active manner that gets learners up out of their seats

Preparation Time:  5 minutes

Materials Needed:  List of vocabulary words, letters needed for the words written on index cards (one letter per card)


two red dice with white numbers

Purpose:  A fun and upbeat game to review spelling, vocabulary, or reading questions

Preparation Time:  10 minutes

Materials Needed:  Dice, a list of questions or vocabulary words


a hand tossing a yellow tennis ball

Purpose:  This activity focuses on phoneme isolation and helps learners to become more confident at “sounding out” words when they are writing.

Preparation Time:  None

Materials Needed:  A soft ball, list of vocabulary words


Group of human figures talking in partners

New resource for teachers and tutors! Now you can watch a video of this activity and print a PDF of the instructions at http://mnliteracy.org/classroomvideos. If you are unable to click on this link from your email, view this tutor tip on the Minnesota Literacy Council website to access this link.

Thanks to Meghan Boyle for sharing this activity!

Purpose:  To reinforce the students’ familiarity with vocabulary through interactions with classmates

Preparation Time:  10 minutes

A hand holding up three fingers

Purpose:  To help beginning level learners develop phonemic awareness, which is the ability to hear and manipulate the sounds in spoken words, and the understanding that spoken words and syllables are made up of sequences of speech sounds (Yopp, 1992). Phonemic awareness prepares learners to sound out and spell new words.

Preparation Time:  None

Materials Needed:  None


Hands holding up letters to spell the word tips in capital letters

Purpose:  To help beginning level learners develop phonemic awareness and increase spelling skills with a fun and interactive activity designed to get them out of their seats!

Preparation Time:  10 minutes to create a word list and letter cards

Materials Needed:  A word list with 6-10 words and letter cards (each card will have one of each letters from the word list).




Subscribe to RSS - spelling