Preparing for a Spelling Bee

Spelling bees and sports have much in common. They both involve competition and require that you ready yourself to meet the challenges you will face. It is important to understand the rules and fundamentals of the game. The better you understand these, the greater your chances are of doing well. So with that in mind, here are the steps you need to take to become the best speller you can be.

Get a coach. A coach is someone who trains and instructs you. A spelling bee coach will help you study word lists, practice spelling aloud, and help you stay motivated. Your coach could be your mom, dad, brother, sister, a teacher, or anyone who has at least half an hour to devote to your daily practice sessions.

Know the rules of the game. In order to succeed, you need to know spelling bee rules. Ask your teacher for a copy of the rules for local contests. To get a listing of the rules used in the national contest, go to the National Spelling Bee’s website. The rules contain information such as the questions you can ask about a word, how much time you have to spell a given word, the reference dictionary that is used, the spelling bee procedures and so on. Read the rules carefully and make sure you understand each one. If you have trouble understanding a rule, seek clarification from your teacher.

Get the right gear. You will want to keep a notebook or computer file of words to study. You can get lists of study words from a number of different sources. I suggest starting with the most commonly misspelled words. You can find lists of commonly misspelled words in spelling practice books at the library (ask your reference librarian to help you locate these books) or by searching the internet with the phrase “commonly misspelled words”. Go to the “Study Zone” section of the Scripps National Spelling Bee website for a free list of words which have been asked in over 100 spelling bees. Also of interest in the “Study Zone” are the 36-week course of study and a concentrated course of study of about 700 words. This site also links each word to an audio file so you can hear the word correctly pronounced. Remember — the way a word is pronounced often gives you excellent clues as to how the word is spelled.

Practice, practice, practice. World-class Olympic athletes practice for hours everyday, just like spellers who end up going to the National Spelling Bee. Skills take time to develop so allow yourself the time to develop your spelling skills. You do not have to make the level of commitment of a national champion in order to improve, but you do have to practice each day consistently. Practice each word by first carefully reading the word. Note each letter and its position in the word. Doing this makes your brain form an image of the word. Copy the word into your notebook. After you have completed 10 words, study them carefully again, and then ask your coach to say the word. Spell the word aloud. Say the word first, spell the word, and then say the word again. Make flashcards by hand so you get more practice writing the word. Take the flashcards with you and, any time you have a free minute, pull them out to study your words. Bear in mind spelling bee competition season runs from January through May. Local competitions run from January to February, with regional competitions from March through April. The final competition is held in May. You want to be ready.

Do a dress rehearsal with your coach. Have your coach talk you through how the contest will be run. Where do you sit? Do you have to move to a microphone to spell your word? What happens if you misspell a word? Ask any questions you have about how the spelling bee will be conducted. You will feel more comfortable if you know what to do, when to do it, and what to expect.

Final preparations. The day of the spelling bee, make sure you set your alarm and give yourself enough time to get ready. You do not want to increase your stress level by being late. Eat a breakfast that includes protein (an egg, meat, tofu, or nuts) because this will help your brain function and you need it working at its very best. Right before the bee starts go to the restroom so that will be one less thing to worry about. Last minute cramming usually does not work. Instead, be confident because you have studied diligently prior to the contest.

By following these tips you will definitely become a better speller. Now go get your coach and start studying those word lists!

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