Teaching Tip #48 Word Ladders

By Leslie Gomez

What is it?

Invented my Lewis Carroll. Students are given a word and then through a serious of small changes they change the word to another. The goal of the game is to make as little changes as possible to the original word.

Instructional Focus

  • Phonemic Awareness/ Phonics
  • Vocabulary
  • Spelling

Grade Levels

  • PreK-Grade 2
  • Grade 3-5
  • English Learners

Why use it?

Word Ladders are a fun and effective way for students to work on developing their spelling skills and phonics. Word ladders also help students think about the meaning of the words, this is especially helpful for ELL students. Word ladders is a game that gives students the opportunity to work on spelling, vocabulary, and learn phonics in the stress free environment.

How to use it.

  1. Create the word ladder. - Teacher can create a list of 5-15 words. These can be chosen from a spelling list or phonics lesson. The teacher will write clues to each word, without giving away the word.
  2. Pass out supplies.- Teachers have the option of using the whiteboard or printing off individual worksheets that can be used by each student. These worksheets can be blank or have ladders already drawn on.
  3. Do the word ladder.- The teacher will read the prepared clues and students will write the word that is being described. Teachers can provide additional clues, depending on the grade level and individual levels of each student. Students will identify the words and use correct spelling for each word.
  4. Review the word ladder. - When students complete the word ladder reread the words and discuss any difficulties the students had during the activity. Did students understand the meaning of the words? This is also the time when students can volunteer and share other words they can spell using the letters already given.

When to use it.

CCSS for English Lanuage Arts Alignment

  • Students apply grade level-phonics and word-analysis skills.
  • Students spell grade-appropriate words correctly.

Students apply their knowledge of phonics and morphemic analysis to spelling when they complete word ladders.


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