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Kinesthetic and Tactile Spelling Lessons Make Words Memorable

We all know Howard Gardner’s research found that children learn in different ways. Some children learn with music. Some learn better interpersonally. Some learn with reading and word play, some kinesthetically. Some are visual learners, some more auditory learners. Then there are children who learn or pick up abstract concepts using logic more readily than others and children who learn from introspection.

The spelling instruction I am going to outline for you produced scores of 90% or above in most students in my first grade classes. Using kinesthetic and tactile methods, there was something for every child to remember.

Every day, students are lead in counting the sounds of each word. Blends are counted as one sound. The teacher holds up her fist with thumb up and instructs her students to do the same. The counting of sounds takes place and then the she swings her arm so that her hand meets her opposing elbow.


Students copy their new spelling words down on paper. Cheer spelling. All students would start with imaginary pompoms at their waist. If a letter was tall (as in h, k or l) hands went up. If the letter had a tail (as in g or y) hands went down. Vowels and short consonants (like c, m or n) were always shown with hands at the waist.


Students squish a small ball of play dough and roll it into a skinny snake. They spell the words out on their desks with lengths of the play dough snake. The play dough is rolled back up between words and the process is repeated for each one.


The kids love whiteboards and Wicky Stix. Whiteboard or Wicky Stix Wednesdays allow students to write or form their words in a different medium.


This was my students’ favorite day. We did Jell-O spelling. Pass out a paper plate to each student, then just a little Jell-O powder on each plate. One small package is just fine for the whole class.

This activity needs superb classroom discipline. I told my students that if they made a mess or they licked their finger during the exercise, they did not get to continue. If either of these situations happened, and it usually did a couple of times in the beginning of the year, I took the plate away. If everyone participated and followed directions, they were rewarded with a minute to lick their finger and eat some of the sugar off of it at the end of the session.

I must admit administrators were shocked at how well this went.


The spelling test! As I noted above, with the exception of one or two students, most received a 90% or above. At the beginning of the year, I had to squash my students’ urge to tell me how they remembered their words during the test – “Oh yeah! That’s when I accidently hit my head when cheering the letter d” or “That word looked funny with the Wicky Stix. My y would not bend.”

Try it! You’ll like it! It only took ten to fifteen minutes a day and ran like a well-oiled machine. The bottom line – the students spelled wonderfully! You will be able to read your students’ work a lot easier than without this instruction. Grading of writing assignments will go a lot faster. It’s a win-win for students and teachers!

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