As a second grade classroom teacher I struggled with the traditional list, drill, and test method of teaching children to spell. I felt very strongly about students using words and learning to spell in an authentic situation (ie: writing). I would often observe a student spelling the word THEY perfectly on their graded list on Friday AM, but spelling it THAY in their writing that same afternoon. Although much time is spent memorizing specific words that children seemingly struggle to transfer to authentic writing, the reality is that most spelling curriculums still require a test on a specific list of words each week. I did find through interactions with parents that spelling was one of the things they felt most confident working with their child on. There is something about being able to check off what they know and don't know that encouraged parents who otherwise didn't know how to support what was happening in the classroom. My attempts to change the system seemed to be hardest on them. So, instead students were given multiple opportunities to interact with the words, while stimulating many different learning styles, in hopes of helping them apply the correct spellings for the long term.
Here is a collection of suggestions for working with spelling words:
Teacher 2 Mom has a great post listing the many spelling activities she used with her first graders throughout each week. The spelling word dance off sounds like a great way to get kids really involved!
A Place to Share suggests a Doug and Melissa Hangman game for reviewing spelling words. My students used to love when we would play this (although we called it Wheel of Fortune) on the white board during classroom transition times.
What the Teacher Wants offers a downloadable spelling practice grid which she uses for homework.
School Family uses board games to make spelling more fun.