Using “Hangman” to teach writing…creatively!

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Getting your kids excited about writing

by Sandra Jacoby

I have been extremely lucky this year in that I have a classroom full of kids who will just write, draw, cut and paste all day! Unfortunately, we all know this is not the norm; many times it is hard to get kids motivated to write.  But just today, I was reintroduced to a way to make writing exciting and challenging for kids of all ages…using the classic game of hangman!

Higher Grades

In high school, middle school, and even upper elementary, hangman can be used to introduce the topic of the assignment and build excitement and anticipation about writing!  Just think of a topic, spell it out in blanks on the board (Wheel-of-Fortune style), and then have the students guess letters until the topic is revealed. This will work if the topic is 10 words long or one word long. To get students even more motivated to write, allow a student to lead the game by calling on classmates to fill in the blanks.

For more advanced classes, have the students each create a topic they would like to write about and put it in a jar at the beginning of the school year.  Approve the topics, and then, when it is time for a new writing prompt, allow a student to draw a topic from the jar and set up the hangman game on the board.  This encourages freedom and ownership, which students of all ages appreciate!


In addition to writing lessons, hangman can also be used as an original way to practice spelling words. Instead of just hearing the word and putting the letters in order (as in a spelling bee), hangman allows the children to see the letters come together to make the word. This way, they practice visualizing and analyzing the order of the letters.


Set up the game in front of the class on the chalkboard or on a sheet of paper in front of a small group.  Use your students’ names or your name or simple words that go along with your theme of the week.  You can help students guess letters by giving them a sound of one of the letters used.  For example, give the students /s/ and see if they can guess S.

You could also play using the alphabet.  Students can give you all the sounds they know, and you put the letters in the appropriate places. For sounds they repeat or make up, they get an arm or leg!

Do you have a creative way to get your students excited about writing? We’d love for you to share it with a comment on this post (and be entered to win a $20 School Box gift certificate)!

This article was submitted by Sandra Jacoby. Sandra graduated from Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi in December, 2008, with a BS in Interdisciplinary Studies. She currently teaches pre-kindergarten in Fredericksburg, Texas.


1 Comment

Filed under Academic Success, Assessments, Motivation, Teaching, Writing

One response to “Using “Hangman” to teach writing…creatively!

  1. Kelli

    I love the idea of using Hangman! I did this in my first grade student teaching classroom and the students loved it!
    Another way to make learning your vocabulary or spelling words fun is by playing charades. We normally divided the classroom into two teams. First a student from team A would have a turn, then one from team B. When it was a student’s turn, they would come up to the front of the room, act out their word, and all students would try to determine what word they were acting out. When a student got the right word, they would then try to spell the word correctly. A point would be added to the team they were on if the studnt was able to state the correct word being acted out, and an extra bonus point would be added if the word was spelled correctly.
    This became a weekly fun vocabulary activity for my classroom!