Top Ten Spelling Apps

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To me, very little beats an amazing app to make spelling practice a bit more fun, but there are so many terrible ones.  This is the sum total of more than five years of obsession to find the perfect spelling apps for the kids I teach and assess.  Yes, I appreciate I am a saddo, but I am your saddo!

  1. Hands down, the best app I’ve ever discovered is Mystery Word Town. You are the sheriff, finding stolen gold and rounding up outlaws.  You can create multiple accounts and have multiple lists of your own words. It’s fun, suits all ages, cheap and has huge longevity – they can use it to practice words like high, night, light etc. or their anatomy words for their medical degree.   I like it because it is combines close attention to both the letters and their sounds.   Available on apple, google play and amazon app stores. Here is a video of it.

2. For practising high-frequency words, I really like Hairy Words 1 and 2 which has a genuinely fun reward game. But you might need to encourage them to practise the words they can’t spell, rather than the ones they can.

3. To practice words in phonic groups, Forest Phonics isn’t especially fun, but it is quirky and pretty non-patronising.  You can select words to spell focusing on a choice of 27 different phonic patterns (eg aw, ew, oi, ou) and 6 blends (e.g. sl, nk)

4. With Montessori Crosswords you can focus on one sound or letter cluster.  It isn’t very complex but has a lovely soothing reward after each word, which you can do for as long as you need. Its called Montessori Words and Phonics on the google play store and amazon app store.

5. SpellNow YearOne is very educational and follows a really sound progression, but isn’t very fun and is quite childish. It teaches a lot of really useful spelling rules and there is a choice of games, but each game lasts slightly too long. I wish this were better because it is incredibly educational.

Ones that don’t make my top five:

6. A+ spelling test is free and not patronising. Unfortunately, it also isn’t very fun. It allows you to enter your own words and has a few different ways to practice them including unscrambling the word.

7. I love the maths squeebles apps and their Squeebles Spelling version is ok. It’s flexible and you can choose the words your child plays with, as well as controlling lots of options. But the reward game isn’t very fun and the graphics are quite childish.

8. SpellingBee Pro also allows you to choose the words and the way these are presented. There is a choice of basic games (such as crosswords, matching, word search, unscrambling). The upbeat voice congratulating you is nice but it’s not very fun and aimed at younger ones.

9. Spelling Hangman is nice because you can create your own lists to play with and it uses a lower case keyboard so your child can visualise the word as they will normally see it. But you can only enter the word in the right order, which encourages sounding out, but feels a bit limited. I am convinced that playing hangman with your child is the cheapest, easiest way to get them linking letters and sounds, but trying to explain it to parents from different cultures has made me suddenly realise how barbaric the concept is! There are some free versions of hangman which use capital letters. Spelling Bug Hangman is good for younger kids with cute graphics and celebrations when you get it right.

10. Cloze for Spelling is free, simple and not patronising. You can play with a handful of your own spellings.

Just outside my top ten would be:

Spelling Shed. Buying this as a parent is pricey for what you get (£30 a year). But most people get it free from school. It offers a sound progression and a few games.

Sir Linkalot has some great ways to learn tricky words but is very expensive (£50 a year!). You might be able to get a free trial during the pandemic. Why not check out his free YouTube videos and his book: ThinkALink This method is fab for the 10% of words that don’t follow the rules, but isn’t viable for the 40,000 words we typically need. We need to be learning most of those in groups.

If you come across a super fun spelling app, please let me know.

There are dozens of other apps I haven’t listed because they are either not fun, or you can’t choose which spellings you practice, or they inexplicably use capital letters, or everything is timed or the words aren’t presented in groups.

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