Creative Spelling Game to Build Vocabulary for Older Elementary or Middle School Students

Page content

Here is a simple, fun spelling and vocabulary building game - Word Building that can be played in the classroom. What’s more, there’s absolutely no pre-preparation for the teacher and children would tend to begin playing it themselves after they’ve played it once or twice in the class.

Age: Can be adapted to the primary as well as middle school level.

Time Required: Ideal for a class of 10-15 people, and can be concluded in just half an hour. Can be stretched longer if required by giving each player multiple chances.

Object of the Game: To lead to a meaningful word and not let it end there.

How to Play: The game requires the pupils to go by turn, so first of all define an order to go.

The first one to go speaks a letter of the alphabet, which is written down on the board. This is the first letter of the word that we shall be building. Now, each subsequent student must speak a letter (which is again written on the board after the previous letter) so that the string of letters so far leads to at least one meaningful word.

Whenever a word ends on a person, that person is eliminated from the game after which the next person starts a new word. This goes on until there are only 4 students left. From this point, each of them has multiple lives (say 5, i.e. a person is limited to 5 words ending on him), and the game continues in the same way until only one person remains.

The key to winning the game is to think of longer words. Here is an example (assuming 5 pupils).

Pupil 1 - A

Pupil 2 - P (considering the word apple)

Pupil 3 - P

Pupil 4 - L

Pupil 5 - I (does not end the word by saying E, instead says I, considering the word application.)

The word can further be turned around by making it applicant and so on…

The participants can tweak words, and think of the word the others, previous to them did not think of. Also, words that have already been made once can be made again only if they can be built upon further.

It may often happen that the direction in which the game is going may not be leading to any meaningful word at all. You can have one of these two rules to prevent this problem -

1. If person 5 thinks that the letter person 4 added would not lead to any word at all, then person 5 can challenge person 4. Person 4 must then reveal the word he thought of. If the word turns out to be a valid word, person 5, who challenged, loses a life. And if the word is incorrect, person 4, who spoke the wrong letter loses a life, and person 5 gets an extra life (that is he’ll be eliminated only when two words have ended on him). The choice of challenging or not rests with person 5, he may not be hinted to do so. This makes sure students know a word that their string of letters may be leading to.

2. The second option is the game can be moderated by the teacher itself.

A lot of variations can be introduced in this game to increase the difficulty level, or to suit a specific purpose, here are a few examples:

  • Give each one only a finite amount of time to think, say 30 seconds.
  • Prohibit -ing, -ion etc. derivatives of a word.
  • It can be adapted to a science class by allowing only words of scientific usage. Similarly it can be adapted to any specific field, provided it as a vocabulary wide enough. This game is generally enjoyed by all, and encourages pupils to refer to words where they got stuck. So here it is a creative teaching idea for improving vocabulary and spellings.


  • ESL learning experience.

This post is part of the series: creative teaching ideas - word games for improving vocabulary

word games like word building, anagrams, word-chain etc. for improving vocabulary and spelling of your pupils.

  1. Vocabulary and Spelling Word Building Game
  2. Improve the Vocabulary of Your Students With Word Games