Four easy tips to help your child practice spelling

by Anna Michaelidou

Spelling can be tough for an adult let alone a child. Sometimes it can be disheartening watching your child struggle with their spelling tests. That's why First Tutors have come up with four easy tips to help your child learn their spellings in a simple and easy way.


1. Break down the word

I remember when I was still at primary school and struggling to learn longer words; my spelling tests were always a disaster. My parents decided at the time that it would be best to hire a private tutor to help me out. The lady that used to come to my house was a very sweet lady and she had a wonderful way of making those hard words seem so much simpler. Her method was to break the word up. I still remember that the word 'together' used to be so daunting. Her trick was to break the word into three smaller words; to-get-her. I loved it as a child and would often have a lot of fun finding words that could be broken down into smaller words. It's funny because even today (over thirty years later) I still sound out the word to-get-her when I spell it.

Breaking down words with more than one syllable makes the word easier to remember. Use pieces of paper or card that you can cut up and have your child have fun putting the word back together. Clapping through a word is a great way to help your child grasp the concept of syllables; one clap per syllable.

Examples of two-syllable words





Examples of three-syllable words




Examples of four-syllable words




2. Look, cover, write, check

This method has been adopted by many schools to encourage the learning of spellings in children. It works by:

  1. Giving a child a new word
  2. The child looks at the word
  3. Covers the word with their hand or a piece of paper
  4. Writes the word down
  5. Looks at the covered word to check they have spelt it right

This method helps children practise the spelling of a word by encouraging them to learn the word and test themselves.

3. Use memory aids

A great way to learn and remember to spell certain more difficult words that cannot be sounded out easily is by learning silly phrases or clever rhymes.

For example the word BELIEVE can often be a tricky word (there are many tricky words in the English Language) for children to spell. By teaching them the phrase 'there is a LIE in beLIEve' you are showing them a great way to memorise the word and remember it.

The word HEAR can be remembered using the phrase 'you HEAR with your EAR'. That way the child will learn that the word HEAR as in 'to listen' is spelt differently from the same sounding word HERE as in 'in this place'.

Other great tips are:

The rule 'i' before 'e' except after 'c'; reCEIve (but only when it sounds like BEE!)

The word NECESSARY could be 'one Coat and two Sleeves'.

RHYTHM would be 'Rhythm Helps Your Two Hips Move'.

Miss Pell never 'MISSPELLS'.

An ISLAND is land surrounded by water.

One of my favourites is spelling out the word DIFFICULTY. There is a great scene in Roald Dahl's film version of Matilda where the terrifying Mrs Trunchbull asks a child if she can spell. The sweet child then explains that she can spell the word DIFFICULTY and with the help of the other children in the class sings:

'Mrs D, Mrs I, Mrs FFI, Mrs C, Mrs U, Mrs LTY'.

A great little tune and one the children love to sing over and over.

There are plenty of silly phrases and memory aids that can help your child remember the spelling of difficult words. Of course there are always exceptions to certain rules but that's what makes these silly phrases and memory aids so effective. Have fun exploring the different words and inventing some new silly phrases of your own.

4. Play word games

word games

There are so many games that can incorporate spelling and make learning those words fun for your child. Find games that your child will enjoy and make learning new words to spell a fun experience. Simple things like magnetic fridge letters to spell words on the fridge or a blackboard with chalk will inspire your child to want to learn. Other great ideas for spelling games are:

  • Memory Spelling: Write two sets of the same words onto pieces of card, flip them upside down and have fun finding the right pairs. When your child finds a pair have them spell out the word. If they get it right they get to keep the pair, if not they place them back and have another go.
  • Spelling Puzzle: Create a large cardboard puzzle full of words that your child is trying to learn. Then cut up the puzzle and have your child try and piece it back together.
  • Ball bounce: Have your children sit in a circle. Bounce the ball to one child and say a word out loud. The child holding the ball must spell out the word.
  • Sand words: Take a large tray and place some sand on it. You say a word and your child spells out the words using the sand. Even better on a summer's day on the beach where your child can use a stick or their finger to spell out words in the sand.

There are so many games and fun ways to encourage your child to learn their spellings. Other simple games like Scrabble or simple Word Searches can be fun too depending on the age of your child.

To conclude

Learning to spell doesn't have to be a chore and one that can often dishearten your child. By using some of our tips and ideas spelling can be introduced to your child in a fun and exciting way. Finding fun ways to spell out words or using silly phrases to remember them can help your child memorise words easily and also help explore their imagination. As Mark Twain once wrote:

Anyone who can only think of one way to spell a word obviously lacks imagination.