SPELLING AND…FASHION?

Who knew that people actually paid attention to the fashion sense that spellers were displaying during the Scripps finals this year? Because that’s really important to these kids during the finals: fashion. I saw this article (in Entertainment Weekly, no less), and was somewhat amused. I’m glad they started off the tongue-in-cheek analysis with a disclaimer that “no one is a fashion fail on this list.” Yet they still deride the presence of cargo shorts and a hidden LeBron James basketball jersey. Meanwhile, I roll my eyes and smirk. But…

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2015 NATIONAL SPELLING BEE, DAY 3

During an ideal spelling bee, the absolute best speller is determined, and wins; luck comes into play as minimally as possible. This year, like last year, a single best speller could not be determined, but the best two spellers undoubtedly could. Vanya Shivashankar and Gokul Venkatachalam, both seen as favorites this year, quickly rose to the top during the finals, and stayed there for the last ten rounds of the bee, answering each other with correct spellings fired like arrows that always hit the bullseye. Bouquetiere? No problem.Cypseline? Done. Urgrund?…

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2015 NATIONAL SPELLING BEE, DAY 2

After a preliminary written test in which this year's competitors were asked to spell words ranging from collateral to perruche, and answer vocabulary questions like "When people expatiate, they...", all took the stage to spell aloud for the cameras. Round 2 was composed of words taken exclusively from Spell It, which is a word list comprising approximately 1150 words. Aside from a 450-word school list that changes every year, this list is the main list provided to spellers by Scripps, and it has not changed in years. As such, Round…

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2015 NATIONAL SPELLING BEE, DAY 1

As seems to happen every year, the Scripps National Spelling Bee has taken on some new twists, the likes of which send some spellers and parents to ask me if I'm familiar with the changes. In most cases, I have to tell them that no, this is just as new to me as it is to them. Some things remain comfortingly the same: Dr. Jacques Bailly's avuncular presence as the pronouncer, executive director Paige Kimble's confident smile greeting everyone at the beginning of the morning, program manager Corrie Loeffler's pleasant and sure…

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THE #1 RESPONSIBILITY OF A SPELLER

I can't really think of a great introduction to this, so let's get to it: The first and foremost responsibility of a speller is to communicate with the judges as clearly as possible. Surprising? Maybe, maybe not. You might think it has something to do with the pronouncer. After all, the pronouncer gives you the word by which you survive to spell another round, or fall by the wayside. So you have to hear the word clearly, and that is tremendously important. But think about it. When you are up on stage,…

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FOUR IMPORTANT LESSONS FOR PRONOUNCERS, PART 4

And our final lesson...at least for now. "The pronouncer is not a judge." This lesson could probably be extrapolated into this particular theme: Everyone at a bee has a certain role and set of responsibilities. With as little exception as possible, each person should attend only to their responsibilities. I coached a young man this year who made it to his district bee (which I did not attend). He received a word...and may or may not have spelled it correctly. Opinion was divided - not only amongst the judges, but also amongst…

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FOUR IMPORTANT LESSONS FOR PRONOUNCERS, PART 3

On to lesson #3: "The pronouncer should stick with the word list during the bee as determined prior to the bee." When I was competing in the regional spelling bee in 1988, I was the favorite to win, having won the previous year. In fact, I was so much the favorite, that when we went "out of the book," the pronouncer told me that "this next word seems too easy for you," and chose to move on to a more difficult word. (The word he passed over was "whirligig," and…

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FOUR IMPORTANT LESSONS FOR PRONOUNCERS, PT 2.

In a bee, just as in every project or organization, each person has a role to fulfill. Arguably, the role of pronouncer is the most important role of all. So what does the pronouncer have to do? Well, from the first post in this series, the pronouncer should pronounce the words...and pronounce them correctly. Let's address the second lesson: "The pronouncer's role is to pronounce and give pertinent information about the word, and to spell the word correctly when a student misspells. Nothing more." I want to address those last…

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FOUR IMPORTANT LESSONS FOR PRONOUNCERS, PT. 1

Bee season is now at full tilt, with some regions already claiming representatives to the national bee this year. I've been witness to at least one district-level bee, and have heard about three or so other bees. For the most part, they're running smoothly. But there's always room for improvement, right? So far, I have four lessons I could impart to organizers and pronouncers. Make sure the pronouncer knows how to pronounce the words. The pronouncer's role is to pronounce and give pertinent information about the word, and to spell…

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