How Do You Spell…?? (a reproducible sheet to help with dictionary skills)

by Elizabeth Cossick, M. Ed.

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No matter the age of your students, chances are you get this question often during writing assignments: “How do you spell….?”

While the answer “Look it up” may be an effective route for some students, oftentimes students don’t even know where to start in figuring out the spelling of a word. Thus, cracking a dictionary to find the word is a daunting task.

To break down the steps of how to look up a misspelled word in the dictionary, walk students through guessing the spelling, first. Once they sound out the word phonetically and take the time to really think about the ways in which the word might be spelled, they’ll be much more likely to locate the correct spelling in a dictionary. The key is prompting them to write down several spelling guesses so that a concrete version of possible spellings is in front of them. They can then use those guesses as they scan the dictionary.

To make this a simple, student-directed activity, here’s a Spelling Guess & Check sheet that your students can keep in their writing folders. Download a pdf of the sheet here. Anytime they run across a word that needs correcting, instruct them to use this sheet before diving into the dictionary.

Of course, their phonetic guesses still need to be somewhere in the ballpark of the correct spelling to be found in the dictionary, but at least this tool will get them thinking like a speller. Added bonus: figuring out multiple spelling guesses is good brain exercise, too!

Happy spelling!

For more spelling aids, check out these useful resources



Filed under creative writing, grammar, Language Arts, Spelling, Writing

3 responses to “How Do You Spell…?? (a reproducible sheet to help with dictionary skills)

  1. R. Singleton

    Love, love this idea!! I’m all for getting our kids to be independent thinkers!! Thank you for the worksheet!

  2. S. Jordan-Georgia

    What a great idea Elizabeth! I probably hear that question a million times during writing alone and my answer is simply a point towards the dictionaries. However, not only does my EIP class struggle with spelling, they also lack the dictionary skills they need as fifth graders. I believe the Spelling Guess & Check sheet is an awesome ‘visual’ tool to allow my students see how they are spelling a word, while thinking back to the sounds and decoding skills they learned in the primary grades to help them spell. With the CRCT fast approaching, I definitely plan to download this sheet to help my students become better spellers and to sharpen their dictionary skills not only for the test but for their future in middle school as well. Thank you Elizabeth for such a helpful post!

  3. Rebecca Bruce

    GREAT idea….makes them think it through.