Be the change, Student-centered, Uncategorized

So My Students Cheered for Spelling

“But Mrs. Ripp, we missed spelling!”  Not said with a smile, not said with excitement, but rather with disappointment laced in their voice.  I smiled, that was the first time a student had ever been upset that we hadn’t done spelling.

On my mission to bring more joy into our classroom, I knew I had to drastically change our spelling program.  When my students blog, many times spelling is brought up as the ultimate boredom introducer.  A hassle that they don’t see the need for, or at least not in the format that I teach it.  Every year I have changed the way I do spelling, every year I have tried to make it more relevant, more transferable, more exciting for the students.  Yet my attempts have fallen flat.  Students just did not like spelling.  So over break I decided to throw it all out and rethink how to do it.  This is what I came up with:

  • Make it a team challenge, students are in teams of 4 or 5 that will change every week so no team has an advantage.
  • Rather than make spelling about normal memorization, make it about word understanding instead, focusing on root words and opening up language discussions in the classroom.

Weekly Breakdown:

  • Make sense Monday – this is the day to discover the meaning, the origin, and come up with examples for the 10 root words posted in the classroom.  Student teams are given one device to look up their words and can then decide how they want to memorize it.
  • Try it Out Tuesday – 5 minutes for team charades and then classroom charades for another 5 minutes where students have to guess the root word.
  • Word Jeopardy Wednesday – I created a Jeopardy game for the teams to do, they keep their own score if they want.
  • Test Your Knowledge Thursday – Teams concoct their own quizzes to test each other’s knowledge of the 10 root words.
  • Flaunt it Friday – Each student is tested on their knowledge.  Students are asked to write down the root word, its origin, its meaning and then give me 2 examples of words with that root word.  Scores will be added up for the team and then averaged, this becomes the score for the test for the team.

So why the team approach?  Because I needed students to get excited and this group of kids love a good challenge where they work together.

Why the team grade?  Because I wanted the students to push each other for a deeper understanding.  Because I don’t use grades in my room much the students don’t care much about their grade but they still like knowing how they fared on the quiz.

Why the competition?  Because this group of kids likes competition and I knew it would light a fire under them.

If you walked into my room during our spelling time, you wouldn’t guess that is what we are doing.  The students are so excited, animated, and kind of loud getting the words down.  And the conversations are a thrill to hear, so many lightbulb moments  making word connections.  And those kids that never did their spelling, yup, they are into it too.

I should have done this a long time ago.

Here is a video from our Try it out Tuesday


I am a passionate (female) 5th grade teacher in Wisconsin, USA, proud techy geek, and mass consumer of incredible books. Creator of the Global Read Aloud Project, Co-founder of EdCamp MadWI, and believer in all children. I have no awards or accolades except for the lightbulbs that go off in my students’ heads every day.  First book “Passionate Learners – Giving Our Classroom Back to Our Students Starting Today” can be pre-bought now from Powerful Learning Press.   Follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.

7 thoughts on “So My Students Cheered for Spelling”

  1. My name is Kerri Thompson I teach in New Zealand. I have been following your blog for a while and love it as we are both trying the same sort of things… Giving the class back to our kids. (I will be buying your book too). I love the ‘pimped’ spelling idea and will definitely be setting thIs up to see how it goes for uS. Great idea with this age group as they all love competition! Cheers.

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