Improving spelling by working in pairs


Improving Spelling by Working in Pairs

Many students struggle with spelling, but it can also be a struggle for a teacher to make sure that each student in the class is participating. Placing students in pairs to pronounce, spell and correct their own errors can reduce anxiety for being singled out and can allow you to target certain vocabulary words during a lesson.

This activity uses teaching materials that make it fun for children to put together words from their component letters (and associated phonemes).

1) Prepare your materials and lists

After your lesson presenting new spellings and vocabulary, you can prepare lists of the words in a sheet of paper made at random. Each word should be numbered, because your students will be reading it out loud later and you need to make sure that each group is working on different words. For more ideas, you could look at some spelling worksheets to group your words by sounds and common problem areas.

Then, on another sheet of paper, type up the entire alphabet in a grid with large fonts. Leave enough room around the letters so you can cut them out into even squares.

Make enough copies for your class.

2) Print, cut, and separate

If your printer can print onto cardboard or cardstock, all you need to do is to cut out the letters into individual squares. Else, you may have to spend some more time gluing them into pieces more easily handled.

If you have access to a small card-sized laminating machine, you may be better off laminating each letter individually. If you can laminate an entire sheet at once, then cut the sheet only after lamination and glue each letter square together. It will save on materials, if not on time.

Now separate the letters and the guides into envelopes. Make sure each envelope has enough letters to form all the words in the sheet.

3) Providing instructions

Break up your class into groups of two. Give each group a word list and an envelope of letters. Explain how the activity works:

  • One person will be reading the words out loud.
  • The other person will use the letters to spell them out.
  • The one reading out loud may not help with the spelling. They have to pronounce the word clearly several times, then move on once their partner has laid out the letters into a word.
  • After the words have all been spelled out, the one who was not reading aloud takes the paper to see if they made any errors that need to be corrected. Now they can switch roles with another word list.

4) Monitor participation and assist as necessary

Walk around the room to keep the students focused on their tasks and communicate that cheating is undesirable and unnecessary. Errors are fine as long as they are corrected in a timely manner. The class-wide activity should only take about fifteen minutes at the most.

This method can be used for any spelling or vocabulary learning list you may need to review through the year. Try also using colorful spelling books instead of lists, to increase their enjoyment of the activity.

About the author:

3Emily Ko is co-founder of and a passionate primary school teacher. She loves to hear from teachers, tweet her at @reach_teachers or like her page on Facebook for updates and special offers.

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