Spelling tests are “no fun”

Each week, my sons aged 9 (3rd grade) and 7 (2nd grade) receive a set of words to remember and every Friday they get a spelling test. Neither of them are big fans of spelling tests. My eldest son, Ben hates being told that he is wrong. So, when revising and I tell him he didn’t spell a word correctly he can get quite upset. That’s not much fun.

Through a chance encounter between my son, and the Mozilla developer example of a text to speach API, we came up with a way to make learning to spell a bit more fun. You can find it here RobotSpelling.com.


In November, I was messing around on my home computer, and I came across the new Web Speech APIs. Since May 2020 most of the major browsers have supported this JavaScript extension which allows you to vocalize any text you’d like. Mozilla have a developer example which I was checking out when Ben came into the study asking what I was working on. As I showed him the demo I asked if he could type in one of the words from his spelling test, “Bright”.

Ben typed “brih” and hit enter. The computer read out “brih” completely phonetically, Ben looked confused.

“No” he said, “that doesn’t sound right. The start was ok, but the end was wrong.. Let me try this..”

Then the fun started as he tried to change the word so the computer said the right one. Iteration after iteration. I tried to stay out of it. Eventually his younger brother, Matthew came over and said “I think it has a ‘g’ in it”….

Rather than having to tell Ben or Matthew that they had spelt the word incorrectly the computer had allowed them to experiment and to try to get it right.

In the evenings I’ve been tinkering away, I don’t have much time but I’ve been trying to put together a very simple single page web application that would allow them to enter the words on their spelling test and then test themselves. Ben and Matthew have been helping me put it together.

The whole thing is up on RobotSpelling.com, it is still very rough around the edges, but hey, it works “OK” for now. I’d love to improve it and make it better, but only if there was interest in it. For now, though, it is doing its job.