Spelling Shed is one of five EdShed programs, the others being Phonics Shed, Math Shed, Quiz Shed, and Literacy Shed. All except Phonics Shed have both free and premium options.
Spelling Shed is primarily a source for online games to practice lists of spelling words, but it can also serve as your complete spelling program for kindergarten through fifth grade.
For Both Versions
For both free and premium options, homeschoolers set up a parent account and individual student accounts. Students choose an avatar that they can personalize. The Spelling Shed program has word lists for each grade level that gradually increase in difficulty. Word lists for kindergarten through second grade are based primarily on phonetic word elements, while those for grades three through five broaden to include other types of words, including Dolch High Frequency Words and the top 300 words from Fry’s 1000 Instant Words. The website says, “Our system gives access to over a million word lists, including our official lists and custom made lists.” In addition, you can easily enter your own lists of words. That means you could also use the Spelling Shed games to support another spelling program you are using by entering those words.
Students can be assigned a weekly word list. Parents can print out the week’s word list for students to study as well as for their own reference or for giving a spelling test.
Students practice spelling those words by playing any of the four games: Penalty Spell-Out, Hungry Horses, Spelling Bee, and Shed Load. Two bonus games, Buzz and Bee Keeper, are trickier, requiring students to recall and spell words without any hints. (There are two additional games that focus more on vocabulary: Definitions and Missing Word.)
Parents might discover that some games are more effective than others for a child, and children will probably have their own favorite games. If students are left to select their own games, and they master the words, there’s no need for parents to assign particular games or a level of difficulty. But if a student doesn’t master the words, parents can assign the selection of games and the level of difficulty.
All games except Buzz have four levels of difficulty, and all levels include audio. (Buzz has only two levels.)
- Easy level first shows the word to students, and it provides only letters that are in the word.
- Medium level does not show the word first, but it gives only letters that are in the word.
- Hard level does not show the word, and students choose from all letters in the word plus others to determine the correct spelling.
- Extreme level gives students almost all letters of the keyboard from which to choose with no assistance.
Players can switch the level of difficulty for each game while still working on the same word list. They can also choose to spell words by graphemes rather than individual letters by simply toggling the “phonics” button at the beginning of a game. Choosing phonics means the game shows students selections of letters and graphemes from which to spell words. For instance, the blocks containing letters and graphemes to spell the word ferocious are o, f, s, ou, ci, and er.
All games give students a score for correct answers, and students also build a cumulative score for their work over the past seven days. (Even the premium account calculates the score for only the past week.) In addition, students earn honey pots for each correct answer as well as for streaks of correct answers, and honey pots can be used to purchase avatar upgrades. Parents and teachers can also allocate extra honey pot rewards.
The website mentions “hive” games, which means assigning two or more students to play the Spelling Bee game together. Parents can supervise a group of students playing a hive game, or students can invite a friend to play against them. (Hive game players are given an access code for each hive game.) This feature, like others such as the leagues and challenges, reflects the fact that Spelling Shed was designed with classrooms in mind, although some homeschoolers will be able to use these “group” features.
Differences Between Free and Premium Accounts
The program saves only up to seven days of data with the free account, so you’ll need the premium account if you want to track student progress for more than one week. This applies to lessons accomplished, printable reports, tests, hive games played, challenges, and leagues. The premium account lets you assign beyond the week, track a student’s spelling proficiency, and track words spelled without errors—features that should be very useful if you want Spelling Shed to be your primary spelling curriculum.
You can always start with the free account to see how well it works for your child(ren), then upgrade to the premium account if that makes sense.
While some other websites have spelling games, Spelling Shed takes it a step further by making it possible for students to have their entire spelling curriculum based on the use of games. Plus, the flexibility and options for customization should make it useful for many homeschoolers.