Looking for a fresh early-level spelling activity? Inspired by the old board game “Backwords”, lately we’ve been having competitions to write words backwards.
For example, I say “write nip backwards” and learners have to write “pin”. This requires and builds awareness of the sounds in words (phonemic awareness) which is crucial for spelling.
Sometimes we use paper and pencil, and sometimes mini whiteboards, which are often somehow more exciting (novelty, I guess). For the hardline “I’m not picking up a pencil” brigade I also have an embarrassment of colourful and novelty pens and pencils, and coloured paper.
If working on four sound words, words like “spin” (nips) and “nuts” (stun) can be reversed.
If working in a group, children can take turns being the quiz master. When working with just one child, I ask the child’s parent to play too, and not-very-subtly encourage the parent to make a few mistakes, so that we end up with a grinning winner.
If keeping both letters and sounds exactly the same, this activity is limited to targeting two-letter vowel spellings in “oo” and “ee” words like “pool” and “keep”. A more difficult game would involve saying the word backwards, sound by sound, blending into a word, then writing the word, adjusting spelling choices as necessary e.g. club = /k/, /l/, /u/, /b/ becomes /b/, /u/,/l/,/k/ = bulk.
You can throw in a few palindromes for a laugh, like mum, dad, nan, pop, stats, noon, toot, peep and deed. Yup, same in both directions, pretty funny. There are even a few two-syllable ones like civic, level and madam.
Word choice is very important for this activity, because at least initially, you need words that are reversible in both their sounds and their spelling sequence. Here are some you might like to try:
meet-teem (with life)
If working with beginners, I hope you can have some fun with this activity, and that it helps build your learners’ phonemic awareness and spelling skills.