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Spelling Detective


Return to Spotlight on Spelling


  • Arts & Humanities:
    Language Arts
  • Arts & Humanities:


  • 3-5
  • 6-8
  • 9-12

Brief Description

Students hunt down the spelling errors in a short passage of high-interest current events text.


Students will
  • read a passage of high-interest, grade-appropriate text.
  • learn about current events.
  • locate ten misspelled words in the passage.
  • edit/correctly spell each word.


Spelling, news, current events, newspaper

Materials Needed

  • grade-appropriate current events (resources provided)
  • student work sheets

Lesson Plan

In this lesson, students become spelling detectives as they seek out the spelling errors in current events news stories. This activity can be done independently or in pairs; the activity can be teacher- or self-corrected.

To prepare this activity, select a text passage of high interest to students. The resources listed below are great sources of high-interest, grade appropriate current events news stories for students. Simply copy the text into a work sheet and edit the text to include ten or 15 spelling errors; misspelled words should be words students should be able to spell, since the emphasis is on finding/editing errors of spelling in text and learning about current events. Each passage should be of appropriate length for your students. You might double-space the type so students can correct the spelling directly above misspelled words; or students might circle misspelled words and write the correct spellings in the margins of the work sheet.

Current Events Sources
You could use news of interest from your local newspaper or from one of the following Web sites:

  • Education World's News for KIDS
  • TIME for Kids
  • Scholastic News
  • Student Connections (New York Times)

    Sample Student Work Sheet
    The following news article, adapted from an article that appeared on the Scholastic News Web site, serves as an example of what a work sheet for students in Grade 4 might look like. The key to this activity is to select word spellings students should be able to self-edit and current events news stories that are worth discussing.

    Note: In this sample, students will be asked to find 15 spelling errors. For the purpose of the sample, all spelling errors have been underscored. Of course, they would not be underscored on the student work sheet.
    Navy Dolphins Clear Port four Humanitarian Ships

    Wendsday, March 26 -- Too Atlantic bottle-nosed dolphins were put in to active duty today by the Navy. The two specially traned dolphins are searching the waters for explosives around the port citty of Umm Qasr.

    Makai, 33, and Tacoma, 22, both mails, use their natural abilityes to locate explosives and mark them with floats. The dolfins are working to clear a path for ships carrying humanitarian aid to Iraq.

    The Navy has 20 trained dolphins as part of the Marine Mammal Project based in San Diego, California. Nine of those dolphins where flown to the Persian Gulf recently. They are staying in specially bilt tanks abord a U.S. warship.

    The Navy dolphins are taught to avoid touching the explosives. According to won bomb expert, the dolphins are more at risk from local dolphins than the explosives. Dolphins are territorial an cud drive away the two newcomers.

    Adapting the Activity
    Following are some ideas for adapting the activity for use in all grades:

    • Prior to handing out the activity, introduce new vocabulary to students. For example, in the sample above you might introduce and talk about words such as explosives, Iraq, Persian Gulf, dolphin, and humanitarian.

    • The above passage might be adapted for older students by misspelling some of the more difficult words.

    • Expand the focus of this activity to include editing for errors of spelling and errors of punctuation or word use.

    • This activity could be set up in the classroom as a Spelling Learning Center. Change the story each week. Students cycle through the center during the week. Students read the story, which is glued to a sheet of colorful construction paper and posted in the center or displayed inside a sheet protector that can be tacked to the center's wall. Students might simply list the 15 words that are misspelled in the story - using the correct spellings, of course. As an alternative, students could mark errors with crayon on the sheet protector. This could a self-correcting activity; correct responses might be listed on the reverse side of the story text.


    From time to time, introduce a similar activity that will be graded; students should find at least 80 percent of grade-appropriate spelling errors in any passage.

    Lesson Plan Source

    Education World

    Submitted By

    Gary Hopkins

    National Standards

    LANGUAGE ARTS: English
    GRADES K - 12
    NL-ENG.K-12.2 Reading for Understanding
    NL-ENG.K-12.6 Applying Knowledge
    NL-ENG.K-12.12 Applying Language Skills

    GRADES K - 4
    NSS-C.K-4.4 Other Nations and World Affairs
    GRADES 5 - 8
    NSS-C.5-8.4 Other Nations and World Affairs
    GRADES 9 - 12
    NSS-C.9-12.4 Other Nations and World Affairs

    GRADES K - 4
    NSS-USH.K-4.1 Living and Working together in Families and Communities, Now and Long Ago
    GRADES 5 - 12
    NSS-USH.5-12.10 Era 10: Contemporary United States (1968 to the Present)

    SOCIAL SCIENCES: World History
    GRADES 5 - 12
    NSS-WH.5-12.8 The 20th Century

    Find more great spelling activity ideas in Education World's Spelling Activity Archive.

    Click to return to this week's spelling activity lesson plans, Spotlight on Spelling.

    Originally published 05/23/2003
    Last updated 04/24/2009