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About this Interactive

Introduction | Goals | How to Use This Site | Credits


Spelling Bee is an interactive Web site where students can learn grade-appropriate vocabulary by practicing how to spell specific words and using contextual clues to understand their meanings. The activities at each grade level are designed to let students work at a pace that is appropriate to their skill level. Students hear words multiple times that they are asked to spell, typing and retyping words until they are prepared to submit their words for scoring. Students also are able to take advantage of the multimedia aspects of the interactive, imagining words as they appear in print, hearing words as they are spoken, and reading definitions that help them connect spelling to meaning. (Note: Grade 1 does not present definitions as hints because it focuses on sight words and expects that most students will probably be using the interactive with a teacher, parent, or caregiver.)


According to the Mid-Continent Research for Education and Learning (MCREL Compendium of Standards,, Language Arts standards place an emphasis on vocabulary and spelling across grade levels K-12:
  • K-2 students should be able to understand level-appropriate sight words and vocabulary (e.g., words for persons, places, things, actions; high frequency words such as "said," "was," and "where").

  • Grade 3-5 students should be able to understand level-appropriate reading vocabulary (e.g., synonyms, antonyms, homophones, multi-meaning words).

  • Grade 6-8 students should be able to use a variety of strategies to extend reading vocabulary (e.g., use analogies, idioms, similes, metaphors to infer the meaning of literal and figurative phrases; use definition, restatement, example, comparison and contrast to verify word meanings; identify shades of meaning; know denotative and connotative meanings; know vocabulary related to different content areas and current events; use rhyming dictionaries, classification books, etymological dictionaries).

  • Grade 9-12 students should be able to extend general and specialized reading vocabulary (e.g., interpret the meaning of codes, symbols, abbreviations, and acronyms; use Latin, Greek, Anglo-Saxon roots and affixes to infer meaning; understand subject-area terminology; understand word relationships, such as analogies or synonyms and antonyms; use cognates; understand allusions to mythology and other literature; understand connotative and denotative meanings).

With these expectations in mind, the specific goals of Spelling Bee are to help students:
  • Visualize and associate grade-appropriate words with particular audio stories, placing them in a narrative context.

  • Either correctly spell grade-appropriate vocabulary words or identify words requiring additional practice.

  • Identify context clues to define words and use definitions to spell words accurately.

  • Use audio pronunciations to phonetically sound out vocabulary words.

  • Graduate to increasingly difficult levels containing more advanced vocabulary words.

How to Use This Site

Spelling Bee offers eight levels: Grade 1, Grade 2, Grade 3, Grade 4, Grade 5, Grades 6-8, Grades 9-10, and Grades 11-12. Once a student has selected the appropriate level, s/he will hear a brief story, highlighting a number of vocabulary words. Because students' vocabulary skills improve when words are placed in a context, these vignettes are meant to provide a mini-story the student can follow. After hearing the story or sentence, the student is asked to spell each word. They can attempt to type the spelling of the word immediately, hear the word again or read a definition of the word. After using these additional clues, they can then attempt to spell the word. Once students have completed the first grouping of words, they will proceed to the next level and its corresponding vocabulary words.

As students progress through the activity, the groups of words become increasingly difficult. Initially, the student hears a story that contains words typically considered "below" grade level, followed by a story with words "at" grade level and then a story with words "above" grade level. Once students have completed spelling a set of words, they can check their scores, comparing their answers to the correct spelling of each word.

An introduction in each section of the Spelling Bee interactive sets the stage for the spelling questions that follow; there is an interactive component that allows students to test how well they can spell specific words once they have heard them. If they are unsure how to spell a word upon hearing it the first time, they have a number of options for collecting additional clues: they may listen to the word a second time, see a definition of the word, and/or read the sentence in which it appears. Once students have completed a section and have spelled all of the words, they can review which ones they spelled correctly. They also may check the suggestions linked to the heading, "Become a Top-Notch Speller," for general strategies to improve spelling skills.

The Spelling Bee activity can be incorporated into a wide range of lessons, including those that cover vocabulary and conventions of spelling as well as those focusing on print and audio texts. While the instructional strategies of many of these lessons may strive to develop the students' writing process and emphasize more advanced literacy skills, the Spelling Bee activity can serve as a useful supplement due to the attention it gives to the mechanics. Likewise, audio, visual, and contextual clues within the online activity can also support lessons in media literacy.

Technical Requirements

  1. Browser using Internet Explorer 5 (and higher) and Mozilla 5 (and higher). Best results will be with using latest browser versions

  2. Flash player 7 minimum requirement

  3. Javascript in browser is turned on


Production Credits

Spelling Bee Thirteen/WNET New York. Copyright 2007, Annenberg Media. All rights reserved.

Content Production

Shelley Pasnik, Writer
Shelley Pasnik is a research scientist at the Center for Children and Technology, where she investigates how technology can support teaching and learning. Currently she is the principal investigator for the summative evaluation of Ready to Learn, a Department of Education initiative aimed at improving the literacy skills of low-income children ages 2 to 8. She has written for and collaborated with a range of organizations and companies, including the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, WGBH, Thirteen/WNET, the National Alliance for Media Arts and Culture, Apple Education, the National School Board Foundation, and PBS, for which she created the Parents Guide to Children and Media.

Lesile Kriesel, Lisa Weinberger, Copy Editors

Interactive and Broadband Unit

Anthony Chapman, Director of Interactive and Broadband
Mikki Monkolchayut, Producer
Marcel Ray, Flash Action Script Programmer
Brian Santalone, HTML Implementation
Radik Shvarts, Designer

Related Resources

Teaching Reading K-2 Library
Teaching Reading K-2 Workshop
Teaching Reading 3-5 Workshop
Write in the Middle
Developing Writers

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