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 Building Spelling Skills


Building spelling skills in upper elementary grades presents an interesting challenge. If you're a classroom teacher, you know that abilities vary greatly from student to student. 

While most of your pupils have hopefully mastered basic spelling rules, many will still need review and practice in three areas.

Three Tips for Building Spelling Skills

1. Learn correct spelling when adding suffixes

Carefully review these rules about final e when adding suffixes:

the letter E
  • Drop a silent e before adding a suffix that begins with a vowel. Examples: combination, pollution, unbelievable
  • If a word ends with a silent e, do not drop the e when adding a suffix that begins with a consonant. Examples: forgiveness, requirement, scarcely

See our list of spelling strategies for more details on other spelling rules that are helpful to review in upper elementary grades.

2. Learn new words from content areas

Keep "word walls" for content areas. Make a separate display for each content area so that students can find the words more easily.

  • Health and science words might include contagious, element, fossil, and temperature.
  • Social studies words should include place names for locations studied and words like constitution, governor, and liberty.
  • Math words include multiple, numerator, and negative.

3. Conquer personal spelling "demons"

high school boy in front of his locker

Upper elementary students should know what words give them trouble.  Have each student start his own list of "spelling demons" or "challenge words". Encourage him to write these lists in a notebook, inside the back cover of a spelling workbook, or even tape them to the inside of his locker.  

Periodically, assign students to write a short story using several of their personal challenge words.

If kids know what words they don't know, then they can learn them!

Read more tips for helping 5th and 6th graders  improve spelling skills with troublesome words.

Another technique for building spelling skills in upper elementary students is to give them lists of challenging words to study. While every person has his or her own list "spelling demons," there are many words that are tricky for lots of people. Check out our lists of difficult English words and see if they might be right for your students (or you!) to study.

More Helpful Spelling Resources

stack of books

You may also find these resources to be helpful in strengthening spelling skills in upper grade students:

102 frequently misspelled words:  Study this list to boost your spelling abilities. Everybody has a few spelling glitches!

Troublesome Homonyms Explained, Part 1:  Improve spelling skills by choosing the correct homonym. Definitions and examples included for homonyms beginning with A - P.  Free pdf.  

Troublesome homonyms Explained, Part 2:  Here's more spelling help with homonyms. If your/you’re ever to/too confused to use the correct homonym, print out this free, handy reference tool! Homonyms beginning with P - Y.

  1. Spelling Words Well
  2. Spelling Lessons
  3. Building Skills


Spelling Words Well logo


Think-a-Spell eBook: 365 Brain Teasers and Spelling Challenges for Ages 10 to Adult  

Anyword Spelling Practice eBooks from www.spelling-words-well.com

AnyWord Spelling Practice Series   Fun Worksheets, games & prompts that work with almost ANY spelling words!

300 Spelling Bee Word Lists by Grade Level

 300 Spelling Bee Words by Grade Level, with definitions, sentences and languages

Spelling Bee Toolbox eBooks

Spelling Bee Toolboxes for Grades 3/5 and 6/8   All the resources you need for a successful bee! 

Mammoth Spelling Bee Word Lists

Mammoth Spelling Bee Word Lists    with sentences, definitions, and languages

Monumental Spelling Bee Word Lists

Monumental Spelling Bee Word Lists with definitions, sentences and languages

Young Spellers Spelling Bee Word List

Young Spellers Spelling Bee Word List for Grades 1 & 2 

100 Difficult Spelling Bee Words eBooks

100 Difficult Spelling Bee Words, Definitions & Sentences  My toughest lists, for upper grades and adults!

600 Spelling Bee Words & Sentences

600 Spelling Bee Words & Sentences for Gr 3/5 & 6/8 Extra words & sentences at two levels

101 Word Play Puzzlers eBook

101 Word Play Puzzlers   Discover the FUN of letters & words as you solve each unique puzzle. Great vocabulary & spelling practice!