Clue Detective Numerical Spelling Bees

The traditional way of learning to spell is essentially by sounding out the letters and then memorising.  We all remember the old adages such as “I before E, except after C”.  But what if we adopted a more numerical approach?

An alternative to traditional spelling bees : learn to spell by numbers

As a teacher you can give your students exercises in a variety of formats.  It is  very easy to create the puzzles because the values are constant – A is always 1 and Z is always 26.  You can be as creative as you like, and students will very quickly start to build their vocabulary.

Methods of teaching numerical spelling bees

– Write the numerical sequence on the blackboard and get the students to solve it as a class.
– Use the blackboard to have them write the code down and then decode it individually.  It will help their retention.
– You can also provide them with an exercise consisting of a list of words for them to decipher, either in class or as a homework exercise.  Start off with words that have similar letter pattern. They will begin to see the structure of the words with the help of the numbers.  Then as students get used to using the code make the words more imaginative.  Use words with a larger number of syllables.  The longer the word, the more interesting it is for them to decode.

There is a very simple way to do this, and that is by using the alphabet as the tool for encoding and deciphering the words.  Spelling Bees can become Detective Puzzles.  Students will enjoy the fun of playing the role of ‘Code-breaker’

The alphabet is the code!

1 = A2 = B3=C4=D
5 = E6 = F7=G8=H
9 = I10 =J11=K12 = L
13 = M14 = N15 = O16 = P
17 = Q18 = R19 = S 20 = T
21 = U22 = V23 = W24 = X
25 = Y26 = Z

A sample decoding exercise

It is also good to include some interesting consonants – eg. C, F, P, Q, X and Z, or 3, 6, 16, 17, 24 and 26!

1. 5-24-3-5-12-12-5-14-20

2. 7-15-22-5-18-14-13-5-14-20

3. 22-5-14-20-18-9-12-15-17-21-9-19-20

4. 5-14-20-18-1-14-3-5

5. 1-3-3-9-4-5-14-20-1-12

6 16-12-1-3-5-12-5-14-20

7. 1-13-1-26-5-13-5-14-20

8. 19-5-14-20-9-13-5-14-20-1-12

9. 13-5-18-18-9-13-5-14-20

10. 20-5-14-20-1-20-9-22-5

You now have your spelling list!

Once you have decoded all your words, you have your spelling list.  There will be no doubt be a situation where one of your students student says ‘I don’t know what this word means…’ If they have it written down, it makes it very easy for them to look it up in the dictionary.

As they get more proficient, you can divide the class into pairs.  Students have to write a coded word on a slip of paper and pass it to their classmate for them to decode.  It will add an air of mystery and intrigue and they will feel like detectives or wartime codebreakers.

Challenge your friends!

If you can turn learning to spell into a game your students find fun, they will want to do it all the more, which can only be beneficial for them in their education.  And then it won’t be long before they want to take it to the next level – Codewords. 

What a great way to turn the traditional spelling bee into a game everyone will enjoy.

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