Word Ladders: Strategy #48

Presented by: Ashley Davidson


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

Instructional Focus

  • Phonemic awareness/Phonics
  • Vocabulary
  • Spelling

What are Word Ladders?

The changing of one word to another through a series of steps in which you typically change one letter at a time. Usually the first and last words of the ladder have some sort of relation. The goal is to get to the new word using the fewest steps possible.

Fun fact:

Word ladders were invented by the author of Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carrol, in the year 1878.

How do you use Word Ladders?

  1. Create the Word Ladder: Choose your words; write clues for the words (or use a word ladder that is already available to you)
  2. Pass out supplies: Usually use whiteboards and markers but blank paper or paper with words ladders already on them work well as well.

  3. Do the word ladder: Teachers read the clues and students write the words; students can take turns; provide additional clues as needed.
  4. Review the word ladder: Reread words; discuss any difficulties; add other words that could have worked.

When should you use Word Ladders?

Teachers should use word ladders when doing a phonics or spelling lesson in the classroom.

Why should you use word ladders?

You should use word ladders because they help students practice spelling and phonics in a fun game-like way. They also help students in thinking about what a word means by having to use clues to determine what word to use.

Common Core Standards:

CCSS.ELA-Lieracy.RF.3.3: Know and apply grade-level phonics and word analysis skills in decoding words.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.3.2.E: Use conventional spelling for high-frequency and other studied words and for adding suffixes to base words (e.g., sitting, smiled, cries, happiness).
CCSS.ELA.Literacy.L.3.2.F: Use spelling patterns and generalizations (e.g., word families, position-based spellings, syllable patterns, ending rules, meaningful word parts) in writing words.
Lots of word ladders

This page has links to word ladders that you can use to incorporate what is being learned in class or even appeal to student interests.

So many word ladders!!!!

(this link will need to be copied and pasted into your browser)


Tompkins, G. E. (2004). 50 literacy strategies: Step by step. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Merrill/Prentice Hall.