The Basics:

Ghost is a circle game that practices spelling. Players are in a circle and a random player is chosen to start. This player says a letter. The player to the right then adds a letter as if they are spelling a word. The object of the game is to add letters but try to avoid being the person who adds a letter that creates a word. When a player finishes a word, they are “1/3rd of a ghost” and start a new round. Players are “out” when they are a “Full Ghost" after three words.

Players have to be careful that they don’t spell a word by mistake. If someone starts with a “T” for example, it might be easy to add an “O” without realizing that “TO” is a word, which means that person ended the round. A group of teachers I was playing this game with recently created a variation to this rule and said that the next person should be allowed to add to the word if they choose, and “save” their fellow player. This variation worked well with the adults, and had the benefit of spelling longer words.

In The Classroom:

  • Spelling has become a lost art. Computer technology has made it a less valuable skill in the workplace, and schools do not focus on it as much as they once did. In that sense, this game may be past its prime, but for those teachers and parents who want to bring spelling back, this might be just the game you are looking for!

  • Within my workshop this game often inspires conversation about whether or not it is okay for teachers to put kids who can’t do things on the spot within a game environment. Games that require spacial skills or an ability to remember trivia are played and the kids who are less able to do those things get out early, and no one seems to mind, but if they are a bad speller in this game or struggle in a math computation game, we want to create supports and accommodations to help them through it. (There are often specialists in the room whose job it is to do just that!) But doing those things in a game environment feels like cheating. So, do we let them lose? Do we support them and harm the integrity of the game and perhaps make them feel even worse? Do we avoid the game all together? All very interesting questions…


This game can be found in the Handbook of Recreational Games, by Neva Boyd. It was written in the 1940’s and represents the games that were played by her students in the 1930’s and 40’s. I cam across it because one of the founders of modern Improv Theater, Viola Spolin, saw her as an inspiration and mentor.