Mssng Vwls

Steve Hampshire, Fukuyama City University

Quick Guide

  • Keywords: Board-based, speed spelling challenge, missing vowels
  • Learner English level: All levels
  • Learner maturity: Elementary and above
  • Preparation time: 5 minutes
  • Activity time: Discretionary
  • Materials: Board, pens, selection of vocabulary

Missing Vowels is a quick-fire, team challenge, spelling race in which vowels are removed from words to create clues. This activity provides an engaging and effective way of reviewing and recycling vocabulary. The simplicity of its design makes it easy to prepare, set up, and use with any level of language learner.


Before the class, decide on the number of teams. For smaller groups, two teams are enough. With larger classes you can make each row of students a team. Draw a rectangle in the top center of the board in which to write the spelling clues. Divide the board up horizontally to make a spelling space for each team. Supply a pen/chalk for each team and erasers. Choose the vocabulary you are going to use and prepare a list, preferably with vowels already removed.   


Step 1: Divide the class into teams and number the players so it is clear who goes first, second, third and so on.

Step 2: Explain the activity to the class. Each team sends a player to the board in an attempt to be the first to correctly spell a word/clue provided by the teacher, the clue being the word in question minus its vowels. For example, the clue for the word teacher is written tchr, and clues for words with an initial vowel such as English are presented with an added dash as in _nglsh. A point is awarded to the team that correctly spells each word first. In the case of English a capital letter is also required! The winning team is the one with the most points at the final tally.    

Step 3: Write an example of a spelling clue in the designated space on the board. Show the teams their pens and board space.

Step 4: Start the activity. Award a winner’s point after each round. Vocal support from team members is allowed but only in English and only the player whose turn it is can approach the board. If no team succeeds in correctly spelling a word, the clue can be reused later. At the end of each round, the board should be cleaned to make space for the next.

Step 5: At the end of the race, count up the scores and declare a winner. In the event of a draw, hold a playoff. Any words previously incorrectly spelt by all teams could be used here.


Extra points can be awarded for more challenging words. Short sentences might be used in place of single words.


Ask students to write as many of the words, or short sentences from the activity as they can remember. This can be done on individual pieces of paper, in small groups or collectively on the board.


Missing Vowels is just the activity to use before those regular school spelling tests. With the short sentence version, you can also focus on other important aspects of syntax. The simple act of removing vowels from single words or sentences provides an immediate focal point, an inbuilt language challenge, and a great way of injecting some additional fun and energy into your class, especially at the end of a busy day!