Teachers, parents and tutors often help elementary and middle school students prepare for spelling bees. Some students compete at their schools, and others participate in regional, state and national spelling competitions. Preparing for a spelling bee requires practice, an understanding of the history of words and familiarity with words that don't follow normal spelling guidelines. Teachers can help students by hosting mock spelling bees in their classroom or auditorium. Parents might help by using words from spelling lists in everyday conversations with their children.
Locate Challenging Word Lists
Find challenging spelling words for students from textbooks and Internet resources, such as the annual "School Spelling Bee Study List" issued by the E.W. Scripps National Spelling Bee. The lists are available with a one-year membership in Scripp's Spelling.com Word Club. Students should focus on the 100 study words for their grade first, and then add harder words from other grades. Help your student practice these lists by making them part of the spelling curriculum. For example, add five challenge words -- words that are a grade or two higher than the standard curriculum -- to the weekly spelling list.
Discuss Foundational Spelling Tips
Etymology -- the study of the origin of words throughout history -- is essential knowledge for spelling competitors. Students should focus on the spelling of root words and common guidelines for adding prefixes and suffixes, such as changing the "y" to "i" or doubling the final consonant before making a word plural. Older elementary and middle-school students can learn to recognize trends in English words that stem from French, Greek, German, Japanese and Spanish spellings. Stress the fact that not all words follow the rules, and many require memorization.
Explain Competition Etiquette
Study appropriate behavior and etiquette for spelling competitions. Many moderators allow students to ask questions about their words as long as they finish spelling within the time allowed. For example, students might be permitted to ask questions such as, "What is the language of origin?" "Are there alternate pronunciations?" "Am I saying the word correctly?" "What is the part of speech?" or "May I have the definition?" according to The "Dallas Morning News" Regional Spelling Bee. These types of questions give students time to think through possible spellings and ensure they have the maximum amount of information about their words. Competitors should always address spelling bee moderators politely and thank them for their assistance.
Practice Makes Perfect
Students should practice their spelling lists at home with friends, neighbors and family members. Repetition and familiarity are two key factors that help students perform well in spelling bees. Parents can use words from a spelling-bee list in everyday speech with their children, perhaps focusing on a new word or a few words each day to help with memorization and word usage. They might make the practice into a fun family game. Visual learners -- those who spell best when they see the word written out -- can write the word with their finger in the air before spelling it aloud. Auditory learners can prerecord words and their spellings and repeat them aloud in unison with the recording.
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