Should first graders have spelling words?
Not because kids need more tests but to build a bridge between spoken and written language skills as they are learning to read.
Use weekly spelling lists with first grade spelling words that focus on a mix of high frequency words (dolch sight words) phonically spelled words that will naturally occur during reading practice for the most effective spelling test. This helps kids develop a better understanding of phonetics.
Quick Win: You do not need formal lesson plans or spelling curriculum.
The most important part of any reading or spelling program is that your weekly focus (word list, reading strategy, etc.) is immediately relevant to learning. To make your own word lists grab a few of your child’s books for the week. Scan them for 2-3 common sight words; they, there, when, etc. and pattern words. Jot those down and use the words & patterns that occur the most frequently for that week’s spelling test. If you’re homeschooling you will have control over the pace so make sure it’s appropriate for your child. I recommend monthly spelling tests beginning the second half first grade (January- May) or the first half of second grade and work your way up to a weekly spelling test.
Spelling of words
It is imperative that the spelling words for tests focus on the vowel sound or phonics skills you are learning (with your reading program) for that week. Your spelling program should always follow the daily or weekly practice that you are already doing in reading.
Talk about when to follow a spelling rule and when it’s ok to “break” the rules. (Some words simply do not follow the phonetic rules and need to be memorized. As your reader grows I teach kids right away that words are like people. Some words follow the rules and some don’t. For Kinder and beginning of the year first grade I teach kids to identify rule breaker words. This helps them understand they will have to read this type of word differently (not phonetically).
Vocabulary words are important as well since they can easily introduce tricky words to read that may be more natural to a child’s spoken vocabulary. Building vocabulary is a great way to build a better reader so do not skip vocabulary words when you are doing your pre reading warm up. Sometimes basic words that kids would already know in their spoken vocabulary are “rule breakers” and other wrods follow more complicated spelling patterns.
For more information see progression of spelling development.
First Grade Words
Words lists for 1st grade should focus on word families, short and long vowels, blends, digraphs and dipthongs (ex: oi,oy,ou,ow) and any other spelling patterns included in their reading curriculum. Again, your spelling list should be words your child will read that week. I have made a simple spelling word list for grade 1 below if you do not have time to make one yourself.
Grab my Sight Words List
Don’t have time to create your own word lists… I get it. Grab my free printable spelling words list in order of the most commonly used sight words and spelling patterns. For when you don’t have time to customize your own spelling list!
Get my 1st grade spelling word list here.
Fun Activities for 1st Grade Spelling Words
Spelling practice should include fun activities that kids can do at their own pace. Finding fun ways to practice spelling helps keep kids engaged even when learning becomes challenging.
- Create a word search puzzle
- pocket chart
- word wall
- crossword puzze
- new words
This game is popular way for PreK and Kindergarten kids to practice building vocabulary and spelling skills are several versions of this game; original Zingo, Word Builder Zingo which is great for CVC words and Zingo Sight Words. We have the sight words version and it was not my son’s favorite game BUT it was great practice and did help him learn sight words quickly.
My first banana grams game is geared toward younger learners (Kindergarten & First Grade) and beginning readers/spellers. The all lowercase set includes tiles to help build phonics skills like vowel teams for example /ee/ and digraphs for example /ch/.
For kids age 7 and up get the regular Banana Grams game.
Another fun word building game. The Scrabble Jr edition is geared towards younger readers and spellers (age 5-6 or Kindergarten spelling) who know letter sounds and are just beginning to spell. The letters are cardboard but if that bothers you get this wooden Scrabble refill set. There is another side to the board as their spelling progresses that is more challenging. For kids 7 and up who are fairly independent spellers get the original game.
This game uses letter cubes and picture spelling cards and is played differently than the original Boggle. It’s best for PreK and Kindergarten children who know their letter sounds and are just beginning to string sounds and letters together to spell words but still need some practice.
A great team spelling game. The instructions are written for kids to play on teams but it can be a 2 player game if your child is older or is advanced for their age. We found it is best to play most new games with teams or buddies until we get the hang of it
Best multi-age family game night (with 1st Graders on teams for support) this is a fast-paced word building game. Not all of the letters of the alphabet are included to make the game more challenging. Also there is a timer, which adds to the fun but if kids need extra time they can flip it over once more to finish out their turn.
Stackable spelling word game. The higher you go the more points you score. This game is best for more advanced spellers & readers and the recommended age is 8+. My 6 year old played it and LOVED it even though it was challenging for him. We used the buddy system with an older cousin.
What is your family’s favorite spelling game?