#48 Word Ladders

By: Lucy Bartram

What Are Word Ladders?

A type of game, or puzzle where students begin with one word and then make a series of other words by changing or rearranging the letters in the original word.
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Why use this strategy?

  • To build phonics and spelling skills
  • Students must think about the meaning of words
  • For younger grades: learn word families (ex: 'at' - cat, bat, rat, sat, etc.)
  • For older grades: prefixes, suffixes
  • Use weekly spelling words - fun way for students to study!
  • Benefits for English Language Learners

Instructional Steps:

  1. Create a word ladder using 5-15 words. Write appropriate clues to be shared with students.
  2. Supplies: worksheets, whiteboards, or blank paper with ladders already drawn on them
  3. Complete: Teachers read prepared clues while students correctly identify and spell the words.
  4. Review: Discuss any difficulties, patterns, or unfamiliar words. See if students have any other suggestions for words that could be used.


Teacher Resources, Children's Books, Student Activities for Teachers | Scholastic.com. (n.d.). Retrieved August 31, 2015.

Tompkins, G. (2013). 50 Literacy Strategies: Step by Step (4th ed., pp. 148-150). Boston: Pearson.