If you ask my youngest son, spelling tests are far, far scarier than anything that Hollywood’s best horror writers can dish out. A couple of years ago, I could track the onset of his chronic stomach aches to the exact moment the next spelling or vocabulary test was announced. Having struggled with phonics his whole life, any type of word-related examination was cause for serious anxiety. In fact, each week’s test provided additional reinforcement for his growing belief that he was likely the worst speller in the history of humanity.
Thankfully, we discovered two online resources that took a lot of the growl and bite out of preparing for those dreaded reminders of his weaknesses in word attack skills. Spelling City and Learning Vocabulary Fun are two websites that actually make studying spelling and vocabulary not just bearable, but enjoyable!
The designers of these two sites really know kids. They know what engages them, what challenges them, and what keeps them coming back for more. Spelling City, for instance, lets kids or teachers put in their own spelling lists. In “Teach Me” mode, students get to hear their weekly words spoken in a real human voice, with visual and auditory reinforcement. Then they get to choose from among nine different games to play with their words. Finally, they can even attempt a non-threatening trial run of their upcoming spelling quiz and find out which words they still need more practice with.
Learning Vocabulary Fun is another innovative way for students to build their word skills. The games on this site are some of the most enthralling (and yes, addictive…you’ve been warned!) that you will find just about anywhere on the web. And the games appeal to many different levels. There are simple, delightful games like “Match Game” for the youngest readers, and “Clueless Crossword” for word nerds like myself. My son has even been known to be parked for up to an hour trying to outwit that sly cat in “Hang Mouse.”
But websites like Spelling City and Learning Vocabulary Fun have got the right idea when it comes to reading education. Kids shouldn’t have to be afraid of words. Whether a child is dealing with a learning disability, is a non-native English speaker, or just hasn’t reaching their stride in spelling and vocabulary, the solution always involves helping students find the fun in letters and words.
Clowns and spiders may always be on a child’s “Top Ten” list of things that give them nightmares, but with the help of great resources such as these two websites, maybe spelling and vocabulary tests will fall off the list altogether.