Teaching Spelling in 4th Grade: Effective Strategies

, Staff Writer
Updated February 22, 2021
Teaching Spelling in 4th Grade
    fourth grade teacher spelling class
    gradyreese / E+ / Getty
    Used under Getty Images license

Learning how to spell fourth grade level words can be a source of stress for students, but they can succeed with help from teachers and parents. Review these strategies and tips to discover how to teach spelling to 4th graders.

A school district will usually have an established list of spelling words that are recommended as new words for each grade level.

  • Break the full list of fourth grade spelling terms down into individual word lists that are a manageable size for students to study.
  • Consider organizing the lists by theme, such as words with certain types of affixes, terms in the same word family or words that start with certain letters.
  • Provide students with individual spelling word lists to study each week or whatever interval is appropriate for your class.
  • Follow up with spelling quizzes in class by calling out the words and having students print them on a sheet of paper.
  • For reinforcement, prepare a worksheet to accompany each list. For example, pair this list of fourth grade words ending in -ed and -ing with this related worksheet.

Build Spelling Context Through Writing

In the fourth grade, students are learning more and more how to write coherently, which means the more writing practice they get, the better. Using spelling words in writing activities is a great way to help students master correct spelling.

  • Encourage students to write stories or silly anecdotes with their new words. The sillier the story, the more they'll be able to have fun learning how to spell and use new words.
  • You could use funny writing prompts for fourth graders to spur creativity.
  • Consider always building on the same story so that they have a short story or novella by the end of the year.

Emphasize Spelling Rules

Evaluate upcoming word lists closely to see which spelling rules you should review with students before they start trying to learn the new words. For example, time a refresher lesson on suffix spelling rules to coincide with the -ed and -ing word list mentioned above. Depending what is on a particular word list, students may need top of mind awareness of a variety of spelling rules.


Have Students Find Spelling Mistakes

In addition to quizzing students on how to correctly spell new words, it's also important for 4th graders to be able to recognize when a word is misspelled. Recognizing spelling errors is just as important as knowing how to spell words correctly.

  • Use this upper elementary activity that requires learners to identify and correct misspelled words along with other similar exercises.
  • Give a practice spelling quiz in class. Grade each student's quiz by telling them how many words are spelled incorrectly and challenge them to figure out which words need to be corrected. If this is a graded test, incentivize them by giving a point back for each misspelled word that they identify and correct.

Gamify Studying New Spelling Words

Learning new words should be like a big game in the fourth grade, challenging their minds without letting them know it. Introduce a variety of spelling word games appropriate for 4th graders into classroom activities. There are many fun spelling game ideas for kids.

  • Challenge students to come up with different versions of words on their spelling lists, such as forming microscopic from microscope. Consider having a contest to see how many different forms of certain vocabulary words kids can come up with in a certain period of time.
  • At mid-year or later, hold an in-class spelling bee that covers the spelling words learned so far in the year along with words from a list of the most commonly misspelled elementary school words. Provide students with a list of commonly misspelled terms to review in advance.
  • For particularly tricky words, have students brainstorm helpful mnemonic devices that can help them remember how to spell the words.

Provide Practice Opportunities

Having opportunities to practice using spelling words can help boost memorization and retention. Allow in-class time for students to practice spelling with fun activities appropriate for fourth graders.

  • Use a free word search creator to make word search puzzles featuring words from the current spelling list. To make the puzzle a bit challenging, you can trick the system into including some close misspellings by listing incorrect forms of the word as options to include in the puzzle.
  • Use a free word scramble maker to create a word scramble game featuring spelling words. Task students with unscrambling them so they're spelled correctly.
  • Have students use index cards to make spelling flashcards, then assign each one to a partner to take turns spelling individual words aloud.

Share Different Spelling Strategies

The same strategies don't work for everyone. Help students become aware of a variety of different ways to approach studying spelling words so they will be able to select the strategies most appropriate for their unique learning style.

  • Lead a class discussion in which you ask students to share how they approach studying spelling words. Call on individual students to share what they like to do, and allow others to chime in with their thoughts on the various strategies discussed.
  • Add additional options as needed to address all learning styles, being sure to include some strategies that are helpful for learning hard to spell words.
  • Use some of the strategies that students share during classroom activities to give each student an opportunity to experience options they haven't tried before. Be sure to use some visual, some auditory and some tactile strategies. Some learners just might discover a new favorite way to study spelling words.

Weave Spelling Words Into English Class

When you're developing exercises, activities or even tests, be sure to include terminology from that year's spelling and vocabulary word lists. That way, students will have an opportunity to immediately see the words they've recently learned how to spell in another context.

Include Capitalization in Spelling Lessons

When spelling lists include proper nouns or other words that need to be capitalized, be sure to require students to properly capitalize the words on their spelling quizzes. Consider making each spelling word worth two points, with one point being awarded for proper spelling and the other for proper capitalization.

Prepare Students for a Lifetime of Spelling Success

From 4th grade on, the words students will need to learn how to spell will only become more challenging. Taking the time to use these tips and strategies with your students will help set them up for a lifetime of successful spelling. Explore these free spelling printables for even more activities and exercises to use with your students.