THE SIMPLE ART OF MEMORIZATION

In the beginning was the Word. And the Word was as a mystery, cryptic, undecipherable. This was before a time of language patterns, of etymology, of roots, prefixes, and suffixes. And the only way to learn the Word was to just plain memorize it. Really, when you think about it, this was how we all learned language as children. We heard sounds, and learned to put them to letters when we started reading. And we could pat a dog's fur while learning the word soft, or feel stubble on a…

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MAKING WORDS MATTER…OR “WHAT IS A SPRINGBOK?”

School is just on the verge of beginning again for the 2017-2018 year. For spellers across the nation, this means learning Spell It and the various school study lists provided by Scripps. Preparing for bee season is about to begin! One of my students once commented that winning words in years past seem a lot easier than they do nowadays. And this is absolutely true. Consider the likes of therapy, knack, and initials. These words - and many other winning words from past national bees - are so simple, they would…

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SIRIASIS

Some spelling bee words are just plain mean. Really mean. In this category, I place the "either you know it or you don't" words...the ones that are specifically on the pronouncer's list just to eliminate a hapless speller...or to differentiate the excellent from the merely good. But the word siriasis deserves more than just membership in this group...it is one of the cruelest words I know. Siriasis has been given at least twice in the bee's history - once in 1989, and again in 2014. I'm certain, though, that given…

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2017 NASCC – BRIDGING WORLDS WITH WORDS

  On the weekend of July 15th-16th, 2017, at the University of California – Riverside, a truly unique and international spelling bee took place. Sponsored by Spelling Bee of China (SPBCN), the third annual North America Spelling Champion Challenge (NASCC) drew 107 American and Chinese spellers to engage in healthy competition, make new international friends and connections, and, in the words of the bee’s slogan, enjoy “bridging worlds with words.” The champion would receive a grand prize of $2000 and a trip to Beijing, China, to enjoy sightseeing and compete…

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SUMMER 2017 – TIME TO…SPELL!

Happy summer solstice! Now that the Scripps National Spelling Bee is done, does this mean that bee season is over? Perhaps for some, but not for others. Summer is a great time to indulge in all sorts of literary and word-oriented pursuits. Just as libraries encourage children to use summer as the perfect time to read, bee programs of all sorts are preparing bees for the summer. Both the North South Foundation and the South Asian Spelling Bee are busy holding qualifying bees for their national bees, both of which…

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2017 SCRIPPS NATIONAL SPELLING BEE FINALS

For those lucky enough to stroll into the Maryland Ballroom at the Gaylord Hotel and Convention Center in National Harbor, an enclave outside of Washington DC, on the evening of June 1st, the 90th Scripps National Spelling Bee was truly a spectacle worthy of great memories. And aside from families, spellers, and media reps clad in various shades of casual dress, high-ranking outsiders dressed to the nines in suits and ties and snappy dresses occupied a reserved section at the front of the ballroom just behind the judges. These included…

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HARBIN FIFTH GRADER WINS 2017 SPBCN BEE

Han Ai Lin, an 11-year-old fifth-grader from Harbin, China won the 2017 SPBCN National Spelling Bee on April 4, 2017, correctly spelling the word fidgety. “I am really happy and I never expected this. Probably my love for reading English books helped me in winning the competition,” said Ai Lin who attends the Harbin Normal University Elementary School. “I shall be reading more books and learning more about the English language.” This young girl discovered her love for reading when she was in second grade. “I was an exchange student…

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LESSONS FROM THE SPELLING BEE: GIVE ANYTHING A TRY…

In 2nd grade, my stern but fair and excellent teacher, Mrs. Zen, noticed that I had a certain predilection for spelling. I don’t remember taking a single spelling test back then, but I wouldn’t be surprised if she noticed that I was bored with the tests I was taking. And even the summer before I began 2nd grade, I had wowed my friends with my feat of being able to spell supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, often at breakneck speed. So my parents took notice. Unfortunately, in my school and district, participation in the…

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FURTHER 2017 NSB CHANGES

Nearly as reliable as the sun rising and setting, almost as inevitable as death and taxes, come the annual rule changes for the Scripps National Spelling Bee. As it happens, the bulk of these changes this year are pretty innocuous, but still noteworthy. So let’s take note and judge them accordingly. First up is the change to the Preliminaries Test. The past few years have seen the use of multiple choice Scantron tests for both spelling and vocabulary, with 12 questions devoted to each section. This year, the spelling portion…

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2017 NSB CHANGES: RANDOMIZING SPELLING ORDER

Hello to everyone from the bustling city of Tianjin, China! Tianjin is a huge city just two hours southwest of Beijing by car, or 30 minutes by high-speed train. It has over 15 million people, or over twice the population of New York City (the most populated city in the US) spread out over about 4500 square miles – nearly the size of Connecticut. I’m here as the academic director for the Spelling Bee of China (SPBCN). In less than a week, we will hold the second annual SPBCN National…

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