Spelling Baseball: A Differentiated Practice Game - Batter Up!

Baseball season is here again! For all you diehard fans, I hope your favorite team wins the pennant. I still remember one particular opening day in Denver (I think it was 20 years ago!) when half my class left with their parents. The city finally got a major league baseball team and this was the Colorado Rockies first home game ever! I was told it was an historic event, not to be missed.

Well, if I can't beat 'em, then I might as well harness that enthusiasm in the classroom. I'd like to introduce you to my version of America's sport, Spelling Baseball, a differentiated Spelling practice board game.

I have a few guidelines I follow when making a game to use in the classroom, and I use them whether it's a math game or a language arts game or any kind of game.

  1. It has to be accessible to all students at their level, with opportunities to grow.  Spelling Baseball has different lengths of word lists. 20-, 30- or 40-word games are available to play with students using their own spelling words.
  2. It should be multi-purpose so I can use it in a variety of ways.  Sometimes I connect Spelling Baseball to novel vocabulary, or themed groups of words that we use in writing, or vocabulary from science or social studies.  In this case, I make the lists for the kids to use. (These lists are editable.)
  3. Games will be student-centered.  Once I teach the game, the rules are the same, but the outcome should be different every time. There shouldn't be a need for me to micro-manage the game.  
For Spelling Baseball, students also have a couple responsibilities in order for the game to work.
  1. Create a word list. They have to write their words correctly and legibly for homework the night before. These become the balls pitched to them, and if they "forget" to do their homework, I have lists made ahead of time for them to use - usually review lists at different levels.  If they're not careful with spelling their words correctly and the pitcher catches it in the "pregame warm up," that batter has an automatic out when that word is pitched.  
  2. Know how to pronounce the words and be able to use them in a sentence. Spelling is only part of owning words.  I want students to be able to use them correctly, as well. Students are paired according to their lists, so both players should be familiar with the words.  They'll be pitching those same words to their opponents, so they need to be able to pronounce them.  The batter can ask for the word to be used in a sentence, if she doesn't understand what the pitcher is saying. This is where Spelling Baseball resembles a mini-spelling bee.

Here's a sample word list I use that includes misspelled words.  I tell the kids, "Hmmm... I guess I was not paying attention when I wrote my list last night.  The pitcher caught my mistakes and now I have to make corrections. Bummer for me because those will be automatic outs when those words are pitched to me.  I need to learn to proofread my work."  

This is not your typical Spelling Bee format.  Not everyone can conjure up words without seeing them spelled, so students are allowed to use scratch paper to write out the word before spelling it out loud.  Another modification for tactile learners would be to have a cookie sheet with sand in it available so they can draw the words before spelling them. 

Spelling Baseball, like real baseball, can get loud as excitement builds, and I sometimes have to remind them to keep it down to a dull roar.  But really, I'm OK with it because the kids are engaged in an authentic task and they're enjoying it!  

"Don't let the fear of striking out hold you back." Babe Ruth

And with that, all that's left to say is, "Baaaatter up!!"

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