Fun for all the family Part Two: 26 games for the alphabet and spelling

Summary: Pronouncing the alphabet and spelling words games for all kinds of students

English spelling is one of those things that even English teachers sometimes have problems with, so the game ideas below range from very simple physical games for pre-school kids that have never seen an English letter before to intellectual challenges for adults who are still struggling with the many pronunciations of –ough. And if that intellectual stimulation tires your adult students out, you can always adapt a physical game for them from this list instead.


Letter slap

Students race to slap their hands down on the letter that matches what the teacher says or shows them, e.g. the first letter of the word that they say or the middle vowel sound of the thing shown in the picture that they hold up. This can also be done with all the letters of short words.


Letter jump

This is similar to Letter Slap above, but students jump onto large letters (minimum A4) that are scattered around the floor instead.


Spelling run and slap

The teacher says the name of a letter or letters of the alphabet and the students run and slap something in the classroom that starts with that letter. This can also work with more complicated instructions such as touching a colour that starts with that letter.


Spelling anti-cocktail

Students are given the letters of a word mixed, e.g. as plastic magnetic letters, and have to put them in order as a teacher pronounces a word or holds up a flashcard. The teacher can then spell the word out so that they can check.


Letters in the dark

Students are blindfolded or close their eyes and have to find the correct magnetic letters on the table or whiteboard to do games such as matching the first letter of the word which is said.


Spelling telephone game

The students line up in two rows and the teacher whispers the name of a letter, the spelling of a word etc. into the ear of the first person in each row. They then whisper it down the row as quickly as possible and the person at the front has to do one of the things above, e.g. run and slap the first letter.


Letter formation games

With any of the prompts above, students rush to make the shape of the relevant letter or letters, using their fingers, whole bodies, Lego blocks, play doh, a piece of rope of string, pipe cleaners etc.


A B bee

Student compete to draw good pictures of something beginning with the a letter of the alphabet, using that letter as part of the picture, e.g. using the letter B as the body of a bee and drawing wings etc. on it.



The teacher says “I spy with my little eye something beginning with (A)” and the students guess which of the things beginning with A they can see the teacher is thinking of.


Spelling plus errors equals?

Students are given two different lists of words that are difficult to spell and/ or pronounce and have to spell the words out for their partner, but adding an error to each one. Their partner has to listen and try and identify the error.


Spelling running dictation

Give pairs of students a sheet with pictures of objects that are difficult to spell, and nominate one person in each pair to run and one to write. Students try to spell those words, then the other person can run back and forth to a list of the correct spellings on the board until they are sure they have written them all correctly. They can run back and forth as many times as they like. With better classes, don't let the student who is running back and forth look at their partner's worksheet at all.


Spelling shouting dictation

This is like the Spelling Running Dictation above, but instead of running back and forth the other student shouts the correct spellings to their partner.


Where's Adam, Betty and Wally?

Students try to find objects in a very detailed picture beginning with all the letters written on the whiteboard.


Back drawing

The teacher draws a letter on a student's back and they have to show that they understand what letter it is by saying the letter, slapping a flashcard etc. This can also be done like The Telephone Game along a row of students and with the spelling of a whole word.


Air drawing

This is like Back Drawing above, but with the teacher or students drawing the letter in the air with a finger instead.


Remember the letter

If you use the same set of phonics cards with the same pictures for each letter all the time, you should be able to test and prompt students by slowly revealing the card, giving the letter and getting them to shout out the word, saying the word and getting them to shout out the letter, giving hints (It’s a red fruit) and getting them to shout out both the letter and the word, say the letter and get them to mime an action for the word on the card, etc.


A to Z in 10 to 1

Students sort picture or word flashcards into order by their spelling while the rest of the class counts down to the time limit.


Spelling pelmanism

Students have to find pairs of cards in a pack that is spread out face down on the table that match in some way by the spelling or pronunciation, e.g. matching the top half of a letter to the bottom half to make a letter of the alphabet, matching the lower case letters to the upper case ones, matching a picture card to its first letter, or matching two picture cards by the same first letter.


Spelling code game

Dictate the alphabet with a different number given to each letter (not in order). When the teacher pronounces a word or sentence, students should convert the letters into numbers using the code that was dictated, add up all the numbers and shout out the answer, allowing the teacher to check if they know the spelling.


Alphabet jigsaw

Students put together words or single letters that have been cut up.


Alphabet countdown

Tell students to start whatever game you are playing when you say a particular letter, e.g. T. Start chanting the alphabet until you reach that letter, at which point they should rush to start the game. Take off points from anyone who jumps the gun. With better groups you could start chanting the alphabet from half way through, chant backwards, or tell them what word you are going to spell out and then spell it out letter by letter until you reach the letter you mentioned before.


Don’t complete the word spelling challenge

The first student gives the first letter of a word, e.g. “S”. The next student must add a letter that could be the continuation of a real word in English, e.g. After “S”, “T” but not “S”. Students continue, making sure that they are extending part of a real word but not completing a whole word. Any students who actually complete a word with their letter lose a point. If anyone thinks the letter added cannot be part of a real word, then they can challenge the person who said it.


Do what I spell

Spell out a whole instruction letter by letter, e.g. J,U,M,P,T,H,R,E,E,T,I,M,E,S. The first student to do the right thing gets a point. They don't have to wait until the spelling is complete, but you might want to take away points for wrong actions.


Spell that DVD

Students are given a spelling-based task to look out for when they are watching a video, e.g. looking for objects that begin with “th” or words that match the anagrams on the worksheet.


Spelling challenge

The first student chooses a difficult word to spell, then students spell it around the class. When any student makes a mistake all the others get one point.


Getting to Spell You

As a getting-to-know-you activity that also includes classroom language they will need all the time (e.g. “How do you spell...?” and “Can you repeat that please?”), you can get students to learn the English spelling for each other’s names. This can be organised as a mingle activity where people walk round and exchange the information of the spelling of all the names that they have learnt so far to their new partner, then move onto the next person. 

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