In the age of spellcheck, does spelling still count?
Faculty and students at Hudson Memorial School in
Hudson, NH, say, “Yes! Spelling still counts!”
(Press release written by Melissa L. Dietz, M.Ed., RWS)
Middle school - a time in life where it’s important to fit in. But, our social media culture also asks us to stand out. If someone is not sports-minded or team-oriented, the spelling bee can provide an enriching opportunity to polish focus, work ethic, and poise under pressure. Experiencing these three skills can help prepare a student for life after school, too.
Many strived. Few qualified. But, only one student moves on to the NH statewide semi-final rounds in March.
At HMS, after weeks of mini-bees and elimination rounds starting in November, twelve middle school spellers lined up in front of a crowd of faculty, friends, and family in the HMS Library Media Center to spell such words as voracious and gastritis.
Participants from 6th, 7th, and 8th grade alternated rounds of spelling challenges and vocabulary challenges. Words included replica, flummox, bionic, and paralysis. Almost all the words were beyond the old saw, ‘spell it like it sounds.’
The spectators supported each and every student. Friends and family could be seen leaning forward in anticipation of the sequence of each letter. They slouched in mutual defeat when a letter or sequence was incorrect and someone was asked to sit down. Everyone appreciated the delicate energy required for a public performance.
Finally, after eighteen rounds of either spelling or defining everything exactly correctly, two sixth graders won the competition and placed first runner-up. Sixth grader Adithi Gundagathi won first place which included a honey bee bookmark, a handmade blue ribbon to commemorate this annual event, and a one year’s free subscription to britannica.com. And, another sixth grader, Sohayla Stump, took first runner-up which included a bookmark, a commemorative handmade red ribbon, and a free Britannica subscription.
The winner, Adithi Gundagathi, will now progress to the semi-final online test and then the New Hampshire Regional qualifier in March. The HMS community will be cheering her on all the way!
Keith Bowen, HMS Principal, said he was very proud of each participant for putting forward their spelling skills and strong mindset. He described the sixth graders’ performances as “Stunning and noteworthy!”
How is a Spelling Bee Still Relevant?
The traditional spelling bee doesn’t only challenge students to memorize letters and their sequence; it challenges students to understand vocabulary, grammar, and the whole English language. And, it’s all done in front of peers and adults. No instant replays or second chances.
In this age of texting and instant messaging, some might say that spelling is a dying art. Others could argue that for student’s to text comfortably, they have to learn a whole separate language and rapidly changing pop culture. Students today are learning the traditional core academic skills such as spelling and grammar which we all learned. Plus, they are learning and creating the new texting lingo and spelling. Maybe we should have sympathy or even respect for what Gen Z and Gen Alpha are faced with?
Still Going Strong Promoting Literacy
Scripps provides schools with over 4,000 words divided into grade levels. All words on the list are curated from an array of books that reflect grade levels one through eight. The chosen words have been deemed interesting and meaningful. They are definitely challenging for a variety of reasons - difficulty, rarity, word history, and usage. Faculty at school then secretly choose twenty words to test the participants at each grade level. There is an e-book students can use to get familiar with the word bank. There is even a smartphone app that will quiz spellers and sharpen their skills.
Schools all around the country signed up to participate in the annual Scripps National Spelling Bee. Beginning in the fall, each state has students compete in mini-bees and elimination rounds. Soon, each state will send just one super speller to the Washington, D.C., area in May of this year to compete on live television.
Since 1925, long before spell check lulled us into spelling slumber, newspaper publishers have promoted literacy by creating this competition for the best speller in the U.S. Students compete for many months before descending on the Washington, D.C., area for the granddaddy of all spelling bees - the annual Scripps National Spelling Bee.
Only one student will win the title, the bragging rights and the handmade, hand painted award that is as distinctive as an Oscar or a Grammy. Each year, the award is designed to reflect honeycombs and bees and the famously tall flower which honors the winning word spelled correctly at the first national spelling bee in 1925 - gladiolus. Spell proudly!