Full-Body Spelling Workout at IATEFL

At the IATEFL Conference in Brighton (England) this year I led a workshop called  

Full-Body Spelling Workout 

This focused on kinaesthetic routes to teaching spelling. The lovely people at IATEFL videoed my session and have posted it here on the Brighton Online website

But you can also watch it below. It's about 45 minutes long.

It was wonderful to meet so many people at IATEFL. A special thank you to those who came to my workshop. For me this year's IATEFL was the most enjoyable and useful one ever. If you weren't able to attend you can watch lots of sessions here.

Vowel patterns - Three in a Row Vowels Activity

Learners seem to have many more problems with spelling vowel sounds than consonant sounds. This isn't really surprising as English has only five vowel letters for about 20 vowel sounds, including diphthongs. (For consonants there are 21 letters and 24 different sounds, plus silence.) So vowels need to be used in combination (digraphs and trigraphs) to make certain sounds. Also, unstressed vowels are often pronounced with a schwa /ə/ (like the last syllable of teacher), regardless of the spelling. Added to this, some languages give much less importance to vowels - Arabic and Hebrew, for example - and learners may not realise the precision needed in English.

So, what to do? How can we help learners spell vowel sounds accurately? Here is just one activity from my book which helps learners to notice and practise vowel digraphs.

I hope you find it useful. Feedback always appreciated. 

Three in a Row Vowels

Aim: To give practice with vowel patterns. (See pages 131 and 135 of book for rationale)

Materials needed: Pencils. For each group of four learners: One game board — enlarged to A3 if possible; two different coloured sets of cards, also enlarged to A3 and cut - these are available on The Spelling Blog downloads page.

1.       Learners work in groups of four (or up to six if necessary). Each group has two teams. Give each group two different coloured sets of vowel pattern cards — one for each of their teams. Also give them one game board. The cards are shuffled and placed in a pile, face down, in front of each team.

2.       One team turns up the first card. They make a word containing that vowel or pattern that matches one of the categories on the game board. They write the word in pencil under the pattern and place the card on the game board on top of the relevant category.

3.       The next team turns up one of their cards and does the same. The game continues until one team gets three cards in a row, horizontally, vertically or diagonally. So as well as trying to make a row of three, learners need to stop the opposing team from winning a row.

4.       To play again, learners need to rub out the words they have written on the cards.

Variations: Boards and cards can be laminated for reuse. Then learners write their words with a non-permanent pen (e.g. overhead projector pen) and these can be washed off after the game.
You may want to set a time limit for the creation of each word.
At the end of the game, everyone writes personalised sentences for the words they used to help them remember the spellings within a sentence.
For an easier version of this game, each team spreads out all their cards in front of them and they can choose the pattern they use to make a relevant word.
You could use this idea to make your own game with different spelling patterns or different topics.