Teaching to write in the minority language – Tip n°2 – Word Ladders

Children learn best through playing, we all know that.  And when it comes to writing, where so much effort is required for them, play is even more important.

I recently was despairing at my own 6-year old who would not show any interest in writing.  Fortunately, a bilingual mum gave me a wonderful idea: Word Ladders.  I had never heard of them before, but it is a lovely simple game popularised by no one else but Alice in Wonderland’s father, Lewis Carol. 

What is a Word Ladder?

Basically, it consists in making a list of words with the same number of letters, with usually a one letter change per word.  For instance, if the first word is “Cat”, you can then change the “c” by “m” to turn it into “Mat”.  And you try to make the list grow as long as it can go.

There also is a variation where you can add or subtract one letter.

Age: 6+

Pre-requisites: Writing skills (as in holding pen and tracing letters), early reader reading skills.

Advantages of this game: 

  • Contributes to memorising of words’ spelling.
  • Little material required.
  • Easy rules.
  • Rather fast-paced (especially if using a timer or using short words).
  • Gets the child writing in a less formal fashion than it would be in a sentences.
  • Requires little spurs of thinking and writing from the child, hence less intense than formal teaching.
  • Involves you writing too, giving the impression that the effort is shared and hence again feeling less intense for your child.

Number of players: 2 or more

Game play:

  1. Start with one word, 
  2. The other player can only change one letter to turn it into another word. 
  3. Keep alternating turns until you run out of words.


  • To make it lively, you can use a different coloured felt-tip for each word.
  • You can use one coloured pen per person to identify the words each one wrote
  • You can use a fast-paced sand-timer to spice things up as your child grows comfortable with this game
  • Start with 3-letter words for early readers and move on to longer words as your child builds confidence and his/her writing skills grow.
  • Allow word repetition to help the spelling sink in or on the contrary disallow it to toughen things up a little.

Do you also use Word Ladders?  We’d love to hear your experience on using them to get your child writing!  Please use the Comment section to share your tips.


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