Games are a huge motivator for young children. I have found over the years that the activity does not even have to be a real 'game' to engender excitement among the little ones, simply calling something a 'game' is enough most of the time. At least initially.
By the end of first grade, students are required to know about 110 sight words. These are words that they should be able to immediately identify on sight as well as know how to spell. They include common words from the Dolch sight word list and are words that children encounter in print on a regular basis.
Over the years I have found many ways to encourage students to have fun learning how to spell these words. One crowd pleaser is called The Spider Web Game (cue menacing music).
Everyone sits in a circle and the teacher holds a large ball of yarn in his/her hand. One hand is holding onto the end of the string while the other holds the ball, ready to toss at the person sitting across from them. Once the teacher tosses the ball of yarn to the child opposite them they ask that child to spell a word from the word wall.
Teacher: Spell 'over'.
Super. Then the student takes hold of the yarn so that there is now one thread of the spider web between the teacher and the student. Then the student tosses the ball of yarn to a child sitting across from them. Again the teacher asks this child to spell a word and when they do, that child tosses the yarn to the next child.
This goes on until everyone has had a turn. At this point there should be a big spider web connecting everyone to everyone else.
Then the fun begins.
One child is selected to be the spider and another is chosen to be the fly. The 'spider' and the 'fly' hand their thread to the child beside them to hold (if this is not done the web will be destroyed). Then everyone in the circle lifts their hands so the web is above their heads. The 'fly' crawls underneath. When the fly is in the center of the web everyone lowers their hands, catching the fly in the spider web. Then the spider takes action and crawls into the center (on top of the web) to eat the fly.
It sounds yucky but remember your audience!
Everyone get a turn as either the spider or the fly. The tricky part to manage is keeping the yarn from getting tangled up when the game is finished. I have everyone sit holding their yarn as I roll it back into a ball. When they feel a tug they can let go.
Give it a try in your classrooms. It is a lot of fun.