Bananagrams – Wonderful Spelling & Phonics Practice for ELLs

Fun and Effective ESL Vocabulary Activity Bananagrams

Duration: 5-15 minutes

Type: Partners

What You Will Need for Bananagrams


  • 1 Set of Letter Tiles for Every 1-2 Students
  • Bananagrams Tiles Work Well for This
  • You Can Also Grab a Printable Set of Alphabet Tiles (See Below)
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Overview of Bananagrams


In groups of 2, students choose a word from the list of vocabulary words. They race to spell that word using Bananagram Tiles or the letter tiles print-off you can find below. Whoever finishes spelling the word correctly first wins a point.

How to Organize a Bananagrams Activity with Your ELLs


  1. Print off the letter tiles you need or pour out the letter tiles from a Bananagrams pouch.
  2. In groups of 2, students choose a word together from a vocabulary list.
  3. They can both look at how the word is spelled until both of them are ready.
  4. When both students are ready, they cover the spelling word list or turn it over, and they then say “1, 2, 3, go!”
  5. The two students race to spell the word.
  6. After both students have finished spelling the word, they can check their answer by looking at the vocabulary word list. 
  7. If both students spelled it correctly, then the first person to have finished wins the point, otherwise, the person who spelled it correctly wins the point.
  8. Students can keep track of points by using a scrap piece of paper or counters (i.e. beans, fake coints, etc).
  9. Alternative: students leave words they have spelled on the table and add consecutive words to the already existing words on the table, a little like Scrabble
  10. Paths to Fluency Members: Check out this article for how to practice vocabulary together as a group.

Benefits Bananagrams for Your ELLs


  • Groups of 2 keep everyone very involved.
  • Students moderate the activity themselves. The teacher is freed up to go around and work with individual students.
  • Students use a method called “spaced repetition” which means they are required to remember something when they have almost–but not quite–forgotten. This method has been written about in many books and articles like this one published on Farnam Street.

Need Alphabet Tiles?


You can get the real Bananagrams on Amazon. They are really nice tiles with letters that are excellent for students learning to read and write.

If that is not an option for you, I’ve created a quick, downloadable version that you can print. Students can cut out the letters and color them if they want. If you can print them on thicker stock paper, they’re easier to use.

Download the free set of alphabet tiles below.

Have you tried this activity? How did it go? Leave your comments below!

2 thoughts on “Bananagrams – Wonderful Spelling & Phonics Practice for ELLs”

  1. I think your idea is brilliant and a good way of fun spelling. The kids won’t know they are working . Please send me the alphabet tiles .Thanks

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