Best Language Learning Games: Part 4 of 5

Full size imageA Guest Post by Marc Anderson
Marc Anderson is the CEO of online English training company that teaches English online to students around the world.  During his free time he likes to read, travel, and enjoy life. 


This article features a language game using cards called Star Speller that ensures ongoing thinking and creative word play. Last week, a lettered dice game called Throw It–Create It was shared. In parts 1 and 2 of this series, “Best Language Learning Games,” I shared the games Scrambleword and Smart Mouth.

Star Speller

How to Play


Star Speller is a card game described as a cross between Scrabble and gin rummy. Players combine their hands into one or more words, trying to use the highest value letters. The game consists of 118 cards of either individual or two-letter combinations from the English alphabet. Star Speller begins with round one and 3 cards, proceeds to round two and 4 cards, then 5 cards, up to eight rounds and 10 cards.

  1. Shuffle the cards and deal three cards to each player.
  2. Place the remaining cards face down in the middle of the table. Put one card (from the deck) face up next to the deck that is turned down.
  3. The player to the left of the dealer starts.
  4. First, the player picks up a card. He or she can pick from the deck or pick up the card that is face up to add to the three cards he or she holds is holding.
  5. Then the player checks to see if they have in their hand a word that is three letters long. If so, the word is put down on the table so other players can see it and possibly add to it when it is their turn. (In subsequent rounds, the player can play any combination of words from three letters up or add on to other words that have been played. He or she may play more than one word.)
  6. If the player lays down a three-letter word, he or she discards his or her single remaining card and goes out. If the player does not play a three-letter word, the player discards one of his or her cards onto the face-up pile.
  7. The play moves to the next player. The game repeats.
  8. When a player goes out, depending on the positioning of the player, the other players who did not get a turn that round have a turn before that round is over.
  9. When the round ends with at least one person going out, the points are totaled for that round by adding the point values of the words each player has laid out, if any. Then the deal is passed to the next player. Remember, for each round, to deal one more card to each player than in the last round.
  10. The game continues through a predetermined number of rounds or until a predetermined number of points are reached.
  11. When a round is finished, any cards that are not played are a negative to that player’s points. Students also count the points played on other people’s words (i.e. in case they added a prefix or a suffix) for that round. These would be added to their point score.

Materials Needed

  1. 118 index cards
  2. A permanent marker
  3. Paper/pencil to keep score (optional)

How to Make the Game

Print the letters on the index cards. You should have 118 letters/combinations of letters. Laminate them if you’d like:

Letter # of Letters Value Letter # of Letters Value
A 10 2 Q 2 15
B 2 8 R 6 5
C 2 8 S 4 3
D 4 5 T 6 3
E 12 2 U 6 4
F 2 6 V 2 11
G 4 6 W 2 10
H 2 7 X 2 12
I 8 2 Y 4 4
J 2 13 Z 2 14
K 2 8 CL 2 10
L 4 3 ER 2 7
M 2 5 IN 2 7
N 6 5 QU 2 9
O 8 2 TH 2 9
P 2 6


  • You can combine multiple sets of the card game for a larger group or choose to have several groups playing simultaneously.
  • You can award bonuses each round for the longest word and for the most words played.

I hope your students enjoy this game. Can you think of other variations?

Look for the final entry, Part 5, of my Best Language Learning Games next week!

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