Top spellers share some of their secrets | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Top spellers share some of their secrets

Sara Thompson
Jim Grant / Tahoe Daily Tribune
ALL |

Before spelling out loud, Bailey Adams traces out the letters of the word.

“I write it out on my hand with my finger,” Adams said.

It’s a trick to help her visualize the word while competing in spelling bee competitions. Writing the word with a pen or pencil would be against the rules.

Adams is one of two Kingsbury Middle School students who dominated the Douglas County School District Spelling Bee contest and are preparing for Nevada’s state competition.

Eighth-grader Adams and seventh-grader Anders Chaplin will represent the school district. They’re excited to travel to Las Vegas for the Nevada State Spelling Bee on Saturday.

If one of them wins the state competition, they’ll compete at the Scripps National Spelling Bee, which takes place May 29-30 in Washington, D.C.

This will be the last year KMS is represented at the competition since the school is closing, and the middle school will consolidate with Whittell High School and Zephyr Cove Elementary School. Adams and Chaplin said it encourages them to work harder for the state spelling bee.

“It’s the last year, so go out with a bang,” Chaplin said.

This is Adams’ second time competing in the state competition. Last year, she finished in 17th place. Her goal this time is to make it into the top 10.

“That way, I can get a trophy,” Adams said.

Chaplin said he’s excited to attend his first state spelling bee.

Wendy Smith, the teacher in charge of the local spelling bee, said the students spent three lunch periods per week preparing for the district competition. She said she admires the students because spelling in front of an audience without writing the word down is hard.

“It’s a lot of pressure when you’re standing up there,” Chaplin said.

Both students said they study every night at home, and their moms quiz them, too.

Chaplin said he printed lists from various Web sites to help him prepare.

Besides studying words, the spellers also study word origins to help them in the competition. At the national competition, which airs on ESPN, competitors always ask judges the origin of the word.

The origins give spellers clues to how a word is spelled, Smith said. Each origin has its own rules, and students at the national competition know them inside and out.

The hardest words to spell are ones from either French or German origins, both KMS students said. Chaplin said French origins are challenging, because many of the letters are not pronounced. With German origins, sounds are spelled differently than English origins.

Latin is easier, because the spelling of the word can be sounded out, Chaplin said.


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