When approached correctly, learning to spell can be fun for students of all ages. Unfortunately however, that is not the experience of many children; dull spelling exercises, tedious list learning, and scary tests can make spelling a trial and torment. These approaches are also counterproductive: not only can they diminish students’ self-esteem, research shows that they also do not enhance their spelling ability. That is why I recommend using puzzles to get young learners excited and enthusiastic about spelling.
Why Do Puzzles Help Spelling Learning When Lists and Tests Do Not?
The only children who benefit from spelling lists and tests are those who get good results – and it is their self-esteem that is enhanced rather than their spelling ability. They were already good spellers.
The children who don’t benefit from spelling tests are those who are poor at spelling. They struggled with spelling before the test, they get poor results and they still struggle after the test. Testing is not teaching.
Puzzles are much more fun and more beneficial. When children are having fun, they are more engaged. Puzzles are a win-win in the home or classroom, as happy enthusiastic students are also more ‘switched-on’ to learning.
As well as being fun, word puzzles are also a great educational tool. Here are 15 reasons why:
- They help to practise, reinforce and improve spelling.
- They increase exposure to old and new vocabulary – helping to consolidate and extend vocabulary.
- They require children to think carefully about the order of letters in a word.
- They can provide focussed consolidation of spelling strategies and spelling stages.
- They require students to think about the different definitions of words – encouraging them to look up any words they’re unsure of.
- They help students understand that context matters for meaning – homonyms and homophones in meaningful phrases are an important principle of spelling.
- They enhance students’ knowledge and understanding of parts of speech – nouns, pronouns, adjectives, verbs, adverbs
- They encourage and improve problem-solving skills and engage students’ strategic thinking.
- They improve working memory – the ‘conductor’ of the memory system, helping both long-term and short-term memory to work together
- They improve students’ processing speed and work rate.
- They foster persistence.
- They can be completed individually, competitively or cooperatively.
- They can improve self-esteem.
- Word puzzles don’t just help with literacy; they also support other learning tasks that require quick thinking, (such as mental maths) and strategic thinking (such as problem-solving).
- They are great ‘stress-busters’ – when children solve puzzles, they are engaging their mind thoroughly, and, for a while, they forget any problems or worries they may have.
Carefully crafted spelling puzzles (such as those in the Cross Spell Crosswords and Practise with Puzzles series) are the perfect educational tool. They are fun to complete and user-friendly for students and teachers.
Learn to Spell puzzles promote good spelling whilst also expanding students’ vocabulary and enhancing their knowledge and understanding of key aspects of reading and writing. In addition, spelling puzzles have benefits that extend beyond literacy as they can improve skills, engagement, and learning outcomes across the curriculum.
Moreover, for busy teachers and parents, creating puzzles can be very time consuming; that is why Learn to Spell books are so useful and popular. All the hard work has been done, and all you have to do is select which puzzle best suits your students’ learning needs – in line with your spelling or literacy programme.