Become a Spelling Bee Champ

How to Help a Child to Become a Spelling Bee Champion

Instruct your child to observe some spelling bees in progress. Have him listen to the questions that the contestants ask the officials. They might request the definition, origin or sentence placement of a particular word. Contestants might take their time in spelling out the words to ensure accuracy. Some might take deep calming breaths before starting to spell a word. These are all tips and suggestions your child can utilize when the time comes for him to compete.

Give your child regular oral spelling tests. Children frequently have a fear of public speaking, so it's important to familiarize your child with oral spelling tests. Typically, the first round of a spelling bee is written, but the most important and final rounds are oral. If possible, practice spelling tests in front of family members and friends so your child becomes comfortable speaking and spelling before an audience.

Allow your child to study on his own. A 2006 Scripps spelling bee study headed by University of Pennsylvania psychologist Angela Lee Duckworth, found that deliberate practice, defined as the solitary study of word spellings and origins, was a better predictor of National Spelling Bee performance than having others quiz the speller or having the speller engage in leisurely reading. The study report states that while solitary study requires more effort than other types of study, it has the best results.

Review the words with which your child has repeated difficulty. Make a list of the common words your child misses throughout her practices and studies. Review these words with her or give her time to study them on her own several times before a spelling bee competition date. Use oral tests, written tests and flashcards to assist in her retention. Instruct her to write out the words several times to fix them in her mind.

Utilize tools such as dictionaries, maps, study guides and encyclopedias to find practice words for your child. It is also helpful if she is familiar with a foreign language as many English words are derived from other languages. Challenge friends and neighbors to quiz your child on words with which they are familiar from their work and school environments. Play family word games such as Scrabble and Bananagrams often for more entertaining instruction.

Tip

Reading can be an effective, long-term means of learning how to spell. Keeping a constant flow of reading materials on hand for your young competitor will help him continue to grow his vocabulary and spelling abilities throughout his lifetime. Although not as effective as solo study, reading is an interesting and informative method of introducing new words.

Warning

Pushing your talented child into these activities may make spelling exercises a huge chore for the young person. Give her several breaks and alternate the different types of practices to keep her on track. Coming up with contests that have small silly prizes, or allowing your child special privileges when he spells all the words correctly provide extra incentives for continued exemplary work.

Tips on Teaching Your Child Spelling Words

Manipulatives

Young children can learn and have fun at the same time using manipulatives. To teach your child spelling words, get some magnetic letters and have her spell words on the refrigerator or a magnetic board. Other ideas include spelling words with alphabet cereal or forming the letters with play dough. By handling objects while seeing the letters, your child is more apt to remember the words.

Games

Word games are effective for helping your child learn spelling words. You can play Scrabble or work crossword puzzles together. You can also make a word search puzzle with your child's spelling list. There are websites that can generate customized word games based on a list of words that you type in.

Memorization

Memorizing spelling words is a traditional method that you can teach your child. Explain to him how to visualize a word in his mind. For example, he looks at the word written on paper. Then he closes his eyes and pictures the word, letter by letter, in his mind. He should spell the word aloud, then check to see if he was correct. Repeat this procedure for each word, and don't rush it. It may not be the most exciting method, but for many people, visual memorization is the most effective.

Writing

Writing spelling words can be beneficial if it's done in a variety of ways; think outside the box of pencil and paper. Let your child paint the spelling words or write them in whipped cream. There are also specialized drawing apps for tablets that could be fun for kids to use to practice writing spelling words.

Spelling Bee Preparation for Children

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.