Spelling – Supporting Your Child at Home

These notes are from a series of workshops from our school – this particular series was on supporting your children’s spelling at home. There are some annotations and additional resources which I have added.

Learners of all ages need encouragement to ‘write, write, write’, and simply to spell words the best they can in first drafts. Teaching children strategies for correcting spelling is far more important than giving them the correct spelling of a particular word. Choose a few words for children to correct that use the rules or spelling patterns they have been working on or are familiar with.

Spelling also incorporates the learning of rules such as: prefixes, suffixes, root words, homophones, apostrophes.

Try to make spelling exciting and fun through challenges. Here are some ways…

Fun Ways to Practice Spelling Words

  • Make a wordsearch with your words. List them underneath.
  • Write a sentence for each word to explain its meaning.
  • Write rhymes for each of your words.
  • Write your words on cards. Select 6 to put on a bingo grid. Turn cards over one by one. If you have word and can spell it, you can cover it.
  • Play charades with your words. When someone has guessed the word, spell it.
  • Put your words to a number code, e.g. A=1, B=2
  • Arrange your words in alphabetical order.
  • Use each of your words in a silly sentence. Underline the word used.
  • Practice your words with a partner.
  • Write your words in different fonts and colours.
  • Write out your words, cut into parts that help you to learn them and glue them in.
  • Design a board game to play with your words. Write the rules too.
  • Illustrate each of your words with a picture.
  • Play hangman using your words.
  • Paint your words with paint (in a book) or water (outside).
  • Write your words in colourful bubble writing.
  • Cut out letters from a newspaper or magazine to make your spelling words.
  • Put all your words in a box of some kind. Play music and pass the box. When the music stops pull out a word and read it. The other person must spell it. Get points for a correct spelling.
  • On small pieces of paper, write all of the letters of the alphabet. Spread them out on the floor. One person reads a word aloud while the other spells it out by stepping on the letters in the correct order.
  • Decide which word you are going to spell. Throw a ball with a partner. Every time you throw it, say the next letter of the word until you have spelled it out. Play again.
  • Write a short story using all of your words.
  • Sprinkle talcum powder/flour/rice/sand or similar in a baking tray. Use your finger to spell out your words.

Spelling Games

Aside from good ol’ fashion scrabble what other games can you play to encourage your child’s spelling?

Apps for Spelling

Loo Cover Write Check

Supporting spelling

Help children learn to spell by using Look, Cover, Write and Check. Visit loos around the world, spelling tricky words as you go. This game includes high frequency words (from ‘Letters and Sounds’) and the ‘Common Exception Words’ for Years 1 through to 6, (English Curriculum, 2014). You can even enter your own words, perhaps the ones from your child’s homework. After completing each level your child can play ‘Germ Attack’. This game was designed by a teacher with 14 years experience.

Word Juice

Supporting Spelling

Word Juice is a fun game where the goal in this game is to squeeze as much juice from the oranges as you can in three minutes. To do so, you have to create words using the letters in the orange segments. Tap “GO” when you have completed a word. Each word must be three or more letters long and MUST include the central vowel. The longer the word, the more juice you’ll make. Using tricky letters, like J, Q and Z, makes even more juice! If you make a mistake, tap the ‘X’ button to delete, one letter at a time, or hold the ‘X’ button to clear the whole word.

After squeezing three or more words from an orange, you can ask for “FRESH FRUIT PLEASE”. You will be given a fresh orange with new letters. Only do this if you are running out of words to squeeze from your orange, as the multiplier will reset to zero! The more words you squeeze from a single orange, the more effectively the points multiplier works. Reach the top of the multiplier and start scoring BIG points!

Every time you “squeeze” a word you’ll light a part of the multiplier meter. Reach the top to start scoring BIG points! But be careful. If you end up asking for “FRESH FRUIT PLEASE” the multiplier will reset.


Supporting Spelling

SpellFix is a spelling game for children in Year 3 to Year 6. It offers children a way to learn how to spell.

Aim of the game: find the 8 spellings in each level using the clues and the available letters on screen. Use hints if you are stuck! The app is great for contextualised spelling development as the meaning of the word is taught at the same time as the spelling. There are 30 levels in all.


Colouring for Mindfulness, Stress Therapy, Concentration and Memory

The adult colouring book is the new therapy for stress. They call them Mindfulness Colouring Books because they’re supposed to help you practice mindfulness – which we all know is good for the mind and body. When it comes to practising mindfulness, it gets a bit challenging because it’s difficult to sit still and be aware of the present. Colouring books give our eyes something to focus on and our hands something to fiddle with and that makes all the difference.

Do Adult Colouring Books Really Work?

Way back before G2 was born and G1 still thought colouring books were “cool” and not just for “little kids”, I used to sit beside him and colour in the pictures. The pictures I worked on were Sesame Street, Thomas the Tank Engine, and other kiddie characters that G1 fancied at the time. Although they were nothing so sophisticated as the mandala patterns that dominate the themes of many adult colouring books, I must say that the action of colouring did feel calming and therapeutic. Of course, it was just a feeling and hardly scientific since there were no brain probes to prove that there really was a positive effect on my brain, but I subscribe to the theory that if you feel good, then surely something good is happening inside too.

Evidently, I’m not the only one who thinks so because Adult Colouring Books are all the rage now:

“If you asked me why people love them so much I’d say the answer is one word: ‘screen’. We spend so much of our lives watching TV, squinting at the virtual world on our smartphones, and working on our computers, that it’s a real relief to get immersed in a hands-on, creative activity. The paradox of concentrating hard on something so intricate and visual is that you feel relaxed and energised at the end – and, of course, you’ve made something beautiful.” – Roly Allen, SMH

“We are constantly bombarded with technology, you can download apps to your phone in a few seconds and it’s too much for us to take in. Colouring allows us to go back to a slower pace and I think people appreciate that.” – Richard Merritt (author of the Anti-Stress Colouring Book series), Huffington Post

Doodling Improves Memory and Concentration

In a 2009 study by Andrade, they found that subjects who doodled had better attention and memories. The theory is that doodling helps the mind stay engaged – it’s a little like a car idling instead of having the engine turned off.

It wasn’t just their attention that was enhanced, though, doodling also benefited memory. Afterwards participants were given a surprise memory test, after being specifically told they didn’t have to remember anything. Once again doodlers performed better, in fact almost 30% better. – Psyblog

If doodling is good for the mind and an activity not all that different from colouring, then could colouring have the same effect on memory and concentration? It is entirely possible.

And if that’s the case, then maybe we shouldn’t be so quick to whisk our children away from colouring books and doodling on paper. Perhaps we should also encourage our older children to return to that favourite childhood activity of colouring?

A Basic Form of Art Therapy

Art Therapy has been used to help children facing mental and emotional challenges. It can provide the following benefits:

  • Self-discovery. At its most successful, art therapy triggers an emotional catharsis (a sense of relief and well-being through the recognition and acknowledgement of subconscious feelings).
  • Personal fulfilment. The creation of a tangible reward can build confidence and nurture feelings of self-worth. Personal fulfilment comes from both the creative and the analytical components of the process.
  • Empowerment. Art therapy can help individuals visually express emotions and fears that they were never able to articulate through conventional means, and give them some sense of control over these feelings.
  • Relaxation and stress relief. Chronic stress can be harmful to both mind and body. It can weaken and damage the immune system, cause insomnia and depression, and trigger a host of circulatory problems (e.g., high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, and cardiac arrhythmia). When used alone or in combination with other relaxation techniques such as guided imagery, art therapy can be a potent stress reliever.
  • Symptom relief and physical rehabilitation. Art therapy can also help individuals cope with pain and promote physiological healing by identifying and working through anger and resentment issues and other emotional stresses.

Although colouring isn’t exactly art therapy, it can be likened to art therapy in its most basic form because the choice of colours and their application is entirely up to the individual. The final creation is an expression of the individual. Since many of us struggle with our artistic endeavours, colouring can offer an easy medium for expression.

How Can We Ignite Creativity in Education?

creativity (noun)

  • the use of the imagination or original ideas, especially in the production of an artistic work.
  • synonyms: inventiveness, imagination, innovation, innovativeness, originality, individuality; artistry, inspiration, vision; enterprise, initiative, resourcefulness

What is creativity?

  • Creativity is the act of turning new and imaginative ideas into reality. Creativity is characterised by the ability to perceive the world in new ways, to find hidden patterns, to make connections between seemingly unrelated phenomena, and to generate solutions. – Creativity at Work
  • Creativity is defined as the tendency to generate or recognize ideas, alternatives, or possibilities that may be useful in solving problems, communicating with others, and entertaining ourselves and others. – California State University
  • Creativity is defined as the process of having original ideas that have value. – Ken Robinson
  • Creativity is in everything – not JUST Arts but also Maths, Science, English…
  • Creativity is a process that often involves trial & error. It is evolving. It is the determination to try again and again.

Why do we want to nurture creativity?

According to a recent Adobe creativity study, 88% of U.S. professionals believe that creativity should be built into standard curricula. Companies are looking for more than graduates who can do specific tasks, they want employees who can also think differently and innovate. To be successful, students need an education that emphasizes creative thinking, communication and teamwork. And as Sir Ken Robinson concludes in this next video “Creativity is not an option, it’s an absolute necessity.” – Adobe

  • Creativity & Problem-Solving are at the top of the list of skills that universities and employers seek
  • A 2010 survey of over 1,500 executives found that creativity is valued as the most important business skill in the modern world – Edudemic
  • Creativity will help to make change and make the world better

Image Source: Moco-Choco

Nurturing Creativity

From cardboard and duct tape to ABS polycarbonate, it took 5,127 prototypes and 15 years to get it right. And, even then there was more work to be done. My first vacuum, DC01, went to market in 1993. We’re up to DC35 now, having improved with each iteration. More efficiency, faster motors, new materials. – James Dyson on Wired

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” – Thomas Edison

How can we nurture creativity?

  • make mistakes and embrace failure
  • promote divergent thinking
  • encourage risk taking
  • no “right” or “wrong” answers
  • instead of “direct instruction”, provide encouragement, opportunity, and coaching
  • offer group work as the sharing ideas can spark more ideas
  • do project-based learning
  • provide clear explanations of the focus or need
  • don’t always give grades as this can lead to a “right” or “wrong” approach mindset
  • create choices for students to tailor their learning
  • add constraints – e.g. you can only use these materials and nothing else
  • offer students real world problems to solve
  • provide opportunities to watch creativity in action
  • D.I.R.T – dedicated improvement reflection time

What’s D.I.R.T.?


Image Source: TES

  • Students are given a piece of work to complete.
  • Once completed, the teacher/peer/student will evaluate the work and provide feedback.
  • The student will review the feedback and make improvements.

How can parents help?

  • Encourage children to talk about their work. Ask ‘Why’? questions without aggression.
  • Change routines – drive a different way to school, try different foods, introduce novelty.
  • Try things out – scuba diving, music, making things. Creativity can come in different forms.
  • Encourage sleep – dreams help us solve problems we’re stuck on.
  • Embrace failure – if children are too afraid to fail, they will never try anything new. Being creative is about trying new things.

Relaxation & Creativity: The Science of Sleeping on It – Big Think

  • Dreaming as an integral part of the creative process – it’s not just about the problems of everyday life, it’s about solving them.
  • “A problem difficult at night is resolved in the morning after the committee of sleep has worked on it.” – John Steinbeck
  • Dreaming allows us to think in a different biological state. When we dream, the brain is busy rearranging beliefs, playing out hypothetical scenarios and solving problems.

Sleep Inspires Insight – Nature

  • Subjects performed a cognitive task requiring the learning of stimulus-response sequences, in which they improved gradually by increasing response speed across task blocks.
  • The task was designed so that they could improve abruptly after gaining insight into a hidden abstract rule underlying all sequences.
  • Some subjects worked without sleep, others were given a chance to sleep.
  • Subjects that slept were more likely to figure out the hidden rule compared to those that did not sleep.

By restructuring new memory representations, sleep facilitates extraction of explicit knowledge and insightful behaviour.

The “Committee of Sleep”: A Study of Dream Incubation for Problem Solving – Dreaming

  • The study used dreams to solve everyday problems.
  • Subjects picked a problem to work on. They reviewed the problem in this minds before falling asleep.
  • Half the subjects dreamed about their problem. Some of those dreamed of a solution for the problem.

CreativityResources for Developing Creativity

  • Thinkertoys: A Handbook of Creative-Thinking Techniques – from the linear to the intuitive, this comprehensive handbook details ingenious creative-thinking techniques for approaching problems in unconventional ways. Through fun and thought-provoking exercises, you’ll learn how to look at the same information as everyone else and see something different. Hundreds of hints, tricks, tips, tales, and puzzles that will open your mind to a world of innovative solutions to everyday and not-so-everyday problems.
  • ThinkPak – Use SCAMPER:
    • Substitute something
    • Combine it with something else
    • Adapt something to it
    • Modify or Magnify it
    • Put it to some other use
    • Eliminate something
    • Reverse or Rearrange it
  • How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci: Seven Steps to Genius Every Day – drawing on Da Vinci’s notebooks, inventions, and legendary works of art, this book introduces the seven Da Vincian principles which are hailed as the essential elements of genius. Discover an exhilarating new way of thinking.
  • The Really Useful Creativity Book – provides approaches and ideas that will enable children to develop their creativity.
  • Design Cards – see image below…

* These are my notes (with personal annotations) from a workshop we had at school on Using Real World Problems to Develop Creativity.