Spelling Bee Preparation for Children

by Erin Schreiner

In 2011, 14-year-old Sukanya Roy had to correctly spell "cymotrichous," a word that means “wavy hair” to win a national spelling bee. In 2012, it was the word "guetapens," which means “to ambush,” that winner Snigdha Nandipati had to spell to take home the Scripps National Spelling Bee trophy. These words, unknown by most adults, aren’t ones that children can spell without preparation. Even though your child might never grace the stage at a spelling bee, you can improve her spelling and increase the likelihood that she brings home at least moderate spelling bee glory.

Motivate Your Speller

Regardless of how hard you push, your child won’t become an excellent speller if he doesn’t want to be one. Foster your child’s passion for spelling by playing documentaries such as “Spellbound” or movies such as “Akeelah and the Bee,” both of which depict the thrill of victory. Praise your child for his efforts to show him that you are proud of all of the work he is putting into becoming a good speller.

Study Etymology

Children who win high-level bees don’t know how to spell every word in the dictionary. They do, however, have an understanding of etymology, which is study of the origins of words. Work with your child to study spelling patterns in various languages. If your child knows, for instance, that the letter K rarely appears in Latin words, but that the C is almost used, like in canary, it will be easier for her to choose between those two similar-sound-producing letters when faced with spelling a word with a Latin origin.

Encourage Study-alone Time

While studying solo isn’t fun, it might be the most effective method of becoming a master speller, according to a study performed at the University of Pennsylvania. The study, published in the journal "Social Psychology and Personality Science," found that of the 274 finalists in the 2006 Scripps National Spelling Bee, the ones who reported studying alone most frequently experienced the highest degree of success.

Use Technology

Contemporary studiers have other options besides hitting the books. Sit your kid down in front of a computer and direct him to an online studying option such as the one provided by the North South Foundation (see Resources.) This form of studying provides some variety and might make the hours of studying easier to handle.

About the Author

Erin Schreiner is a freelance writer and teacher who holds a bachelor's degree from Bowling Green State University. She has been actively freelancing since 2008. Schreiner previously worked for a London-based freelance firm. Her work appears on eHow, Trails.com and RedEnvelope. She currently teaches writing to middle school students in Ohio and works on her writing craft regularly.

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