Spelling Bee + Vocabulary

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AlyssaEimers's picture
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Spelling Bee + Vocabulary

Spelling Bee Champs May Get Stung by New Vocabulary Questions - ABC News

Should spelling bees include a vocabulary test?

ClairesMommy's picture
Joined: 08/15/06
Posts: 2299

I'd rather watch a Definition Bee over a Spelling Bee any day of the week. I'm more impressed by kids who know what words mean and how to apply them than kids who can spell but don't know what the heck they're spelling.

AlyssaEimers's picture
Joined: 08/22/06
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Alyssa was in the lowest level of this competition this year. Only the older students had the option to move on though. It would hugely change the competition to add in vocabulary. Not necessarily a bad change, but it would completely change it.

FLSunshineMom's picture
Joined: 06/07/06
Posts: 3859

I'm not familiar with exactly what all is involved with the competitions (yet), but it sounds to me like it would be a good thing to add it in.

AlyssaEimers's picture
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Right now it is just spelling. The new rules would add in vocabulary. There are a lot of kids that are good in spelling that would not necessarily be good with vocabulary and the other way around.

Joined: 08/17/04
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Not sure I agree. I'm a fairly decent speller but to actually give a coherent definition of a word is not something I'm great at. :). I know what the word means but I am awful at giving a true definition for a word if that makes sense.

I know what they are getting at but I think if you can spell the word you often know how it is used or can be used.

How many kids do you know are great spellers but don't know what these words mean?

AlyssaEimers's picture
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"Jessica80" wrote:

How many kids do you know are great spellers but don't know what these words mean?

Lots. There were words on the list from Alyssa's spelling Bee that I have never heard of before and could not even say. Even DH who is a 4.0 student did not know what some of the words meant.

Joined: 08/17/04
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Sorry, I was writing 2 different things and didn't merge the sentences correctly when I did an edit.

I meant to say how many kids who are great spellers don't have a great vocabulary (they may not know the exact words they are spelling in the Bee)

I did some informal spelling bees in middle school and most of us also had a decent and in some cases extraordinary vocabulary.

Joined: 05/31/06
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I've never really understood the benefit of knowing how to spell a word that one does not understand the meaning of.

MissyJ's picture
Joined: 01/31/02
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I think that those should be two totally different competitions. One strictly for spelling and one that is a Vocabulary Quiz bowl with either defining upon request or doing both -- spelling/definitions.

The benefit of being able to spell words that are otherwise unfamiliar without necessarily learning the definition is that it often can be a game of deduction and reasoning -- skills that are terrific to teach / rely upon later in life. Part of the official rules for national spelling bees offer the participant (speller) the chance to request additional information -- including origin, pronunciation, definitions, root words, use in a sentence, etc. The student then can use that information as parts of a puzzle to correctly spell the word(s).

Is it important to have an extensive vocabulary? Absolutely -- and many of those participating in spelling bees *DO* grow their vocabulary as a part of the process of studying. Still, for most students it is impossible to review every single word in the English language -- thus those lessons in deduction can aid them in being able to spell the word. (Alternate tips / tricks can help in defining words through their knowledge of roots and origins.)

Other benefits of participating in spelling bees include promotion of literacy, improved public speaking abilities, increased language comprehension, marked improvements in study skills. Through their exposure on stage also aids in being a confidence builder for those that may be otherwise more quiet and studious than peers.

I would LOVE to see the vocabulary competition grow... but not while doing away with something also important. Beside - those lessons come in handy for Scrabble! Wink

AlyssaEimers's picture
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"MissyJ" wrote:

I think that those should be two totally different competitions. One strictly for spelling and one that is a Vocabulary Quiz bowl with either defining upon request or doing both -- spelling/definitions.

The benefit of being able to spell words that are otherwise unfamiliar without necessarily learning the definition is that it often can be a game of deduction and reasoning -- skills that are terrific to teach / rely upon later in life. Part of the official rules for national spelling bees offer the participant (speller) the chance to request additional information -- including origin, pronunciation, definitions, root words, use in a sentence, etc. The student then can use that information as parts of a puzzle to correctly spell the word(s).

Is it important to have an extensive vocabulary? Absolutely -- and many of those participating in spelling bees *DO* grow their vocabulary as a part of the process of studying. Still, for most students it is impossible to review every single word in the English language -- thus those lessons in deduction can aid them in being able to spell the word. (Alternate tips / tricks can help in defining words through their knowledge of roots and origins.)

Other benefits of participating in spelling bees include promotion of literacy, improved public speaking abilities, increased language comprehension, marked improvements in study skills. Through their exposure on stage also aids in being a confidence builder for those that may be otherwise more quiet and studious than peers.

I would LOVE to see the vocabulary competition grow... but not while doing away with something also important. Beside - those lessons come in handy for Scrabble! Wink

Very good points Missy. My daughter put a ton of time (6 months) into learning the words for the spelling bee. She would not have been able to study nearly as many if she was learning the definitions as well.

Joined: 05/31/06
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Perhaps. But given the choice between my child spending 6 months memorizing spanish words and learning how to spell and pronounce them with no clue as to their meaning...or over the course of 6 months learning only half as many words but learning how to spell them and WHAT THEY MEAN......well, I know what I would prefer. What is the point of having a child who can "perform" to spell a bunch of words that are meaningless to them? I'd rather have a child with an understanding of the spanish language.

Substitute english, and you will understand why I think that knowing how to spell without understanding meaning is totally pointless. Its like a party trick. Like memorizing the Pi sequence or something. If you can't apply it to real life because you have no idea what it means, how on earth does knowing how to spell huipil matter?

ClairesMommy's picture
Joined: 08/15/06
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Or pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis Wink

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"Potter75" wrote:

Perhaps. But given the choice between my child spending 6 months memorizing spanish words and learning how to spell and pronounce them with no clue as to their meaning...or over the course of 6 months learning only half as many words but learning how to spell them and WHAT THEY MEAN......well, I know what I would prefer. What is the point of having a child who can "perform" to spell a bunch of words that are meaningless to them? I'd rather have a child with an understanding of the spanish language.

Substitute english, and you will understand why I think that knowing how to spell without understanding meaning is totally pointless. Its like a party trick. Like memorizing the Pi sequence or something. If you can't apply it to real life because you have no idea what it means, how on earth does knowing how to spell huipil matter?

You will still win Scrabble tournaments.

Joined: 08/17/04
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But I do think they will get to know the words. They are given the definitions of the words before spelling them and I'm assuming this happens in practice too. You are bound to begin to understand a lot of that vocabulary.

I just don't think spewing out a definition works for everyone. Being good at spelling doesn't mean you can provide an indepth definition. Like I said, I understand a lot of words and use them properly and know what they mean but to give a proper meaning...not my strong suit.

AlyssaEimers's picture
Joined: 08/22/06
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As Missy pointed out, you are learning the skill of how to spell. As someone who did not learn that skill well as a child (Even though I went to public NY schools), I can tell you not being able to spell well is a handicap. Job applications, written job related work, and college are just few examples when spelling is important. We did look up definitions of the words we studied, but that does not mean that she knew them well enough to recite them.

Because that I struggle with spelling so much, it is very important to me that my girls spell well, and it is something that we focus on. (Obviously not the only thing we focus on)

KimPossible's picture
Joined: 05/24/06
Posts: 3312

All the kids who do really really well at spelling bees study the definitions anyway, and learn etymology. Spelling and definition and etymology all go hand in hand. Learning the definition should in theory only improve your spelling.

I get that it changes the whole dynamic a lot, and will mean that some people will do better than others that may not necessarily have done so in the original format...but overall, i think it sounds like a positive.

KimPossible's picture
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"freddieflounder101" wrote:

You will still win Scrabble tournaments.

or hangman! Smile

ClairesMommy's picture
Joined: 08/15/06
Posts: 2299

Perhaps the reason why I have an issue with kids learning to spell words this way, by rote, is because I am a huge proponent of phonics. To me, spelling bees are just examples of memorization and nothing more. Yeah, a kid has memorized this really bizarre word that nobody ever uses or has heard of (which in an of itself is pretty pointless, IMO) but are they then able to attempt to correctly spell a word by breaking it down phonetically first? I don't think bees are like detrimental and messing up a kid's mind or anything like that, I just think they're pointless. You memorized the spelling of a word. Yay. Now, use that word in a sentence.

KimPossible's picture
Joined: 05/24/06
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"ClairesMommy" wrote:

Perhaps the reason why I have an issue with kids learning to spell words this way, by rote, is because I am a huge proponent of phonics. To me, spelling bees are just examples of memorization and nothing more. Yeah, a kid has memorized this really bizarre word that nobody ever uses or has heard of (which in an of itself is pretty pointless, IMO) but are they then able to attempt to correctly spell a word by breaking it down phonetically first? I don't think bees are like detrimental and messing up a kid's mind or anything like that, I just think they're pointless. You memorized the spelling of a word. Yay. Now, use that word in a sentence.

Thats what i'm saying though....spelling bees really aren't about memorization. Sure a great majority of the kids who compete, thats all they do is memorize, but the ones who really get into it and become really good at it do so much more than that. They learn about the words, they learn about the etymology of words, thats why the ask for definitions and origins....you can't memorize every word, so you deduce if the "FFF" sound comes from a "PH" or an actual "F" based on what the world actually means and where it comes from.

I like spelling bees and they are so much more complex than just memorizing words if you want to actually get serious about it.

Joined: 03/08/03
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I like spelling bees too, for the reasons Kim said.

Also I think it will be very hard to judge whether or not the definitions are correct, especially in a spelling bee-like setting. There are nuances for sure, unless you want kids memorizing dictionary definitions, which I assume you don't.

AlyssaEimers's picture
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"ClairesMommy" wrote:

Perhaps the reason why I have an issue with kids learning to spell words this way, by rote, is because I am a huge proponent of phonics. To me, spelling bees are just examples of memorization and nothing more. Yeah, a kid has memorized this really bizarre word that nobody ever uses or has heard of (which in an of itself is pretty pointless, IMO) but are they then able to attempt to correctly spell a word by breaking it down phonetically first? I don't think bees are like detrimental and messing up a kid's mind or anything like that, I just think they're pointless. You memorized the spelling of a word. Yay. Now, use that word in a sentence.

I am not a huge fan of phonics only. There are so many exceptions and not everyone learns that way. Every word I know how to spell, at some point I memorised. Even now, when I see spell check has showed me a word is spelled wrong, I study it so that I know how to spell it the next time. DH and Alyssa work differently. They see a word one or two times and in most cases know how to spell it. They do use each word in a spelling bee in a sentence.

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"AlyssaEimers" wrote:

As Missy pointed out, you are learning the skill of how to spell

I understand that children studying obscure random words are learning how to spell them. I am saying that I think that this is time wasted that could be better spent on other things. I do not think that learning how to spell words that no one has ever heard of, or words that they do not know the meaning of, serves any point. If a child knows how to spell huipil, but has no way to use it.....well......who really cares? I think that it is unbalanced to focus so much on spelling with no thought as to meaning. I like the new focus on meaning/definition, and think that it will help parents to encourage more balance for their children.

FLSunshineMom's picture
Joined: 06/07/06
Posts: 3859

I can see both sides. However, I tend to lean more toward Melissa's POV on this one.

Maybe it would help those who are weak in the area of explaining the meaning of a word, to get better at it, which can be very helpful once you have your own kids Wink

Anything that can help our kids to "think" more is a good thing IMO.

AlyssaEimers's picture
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"Potter75" wrote:

I understand that children studying obscure random words are learning how to spell them. I am saying that I think that this is time wasted that could be better spent on other things. I do not think that learning how to spell words that no one has ever heard of, or words that they do not know the meaning of, serves any point. If a child knows how to spell huipil, but has no way to use it.....well......who really cares? I think that it is unbalanced to focus so much on spelling with no thought as to meaning. I like the new focus on meaning/definition, and think that it will help parents to encourage more balance for their children.

While some words are hard unknown words, in order to advance in the spelling bee, you first have to learn the more normal common words. In Alyssa's spelling bee (which the winners advanced and if you progressed far enough, you could end up in the spelling bee in the OP), each child was given a list of 400 words to study. Only the older children would have gotten to all 400 words. There were about 50 words that were at a kindergarten level. 50 words that were at a 1st grade level. 50 words that were at a 2nd grade level and so on. By the time you got to words that you would not use on a normal basis, you are up to the 4th and 5th grade words. The time spent on the words that a child needs to learn is not a waste. The harder words that you can advance on are not a waste either. It makes learning fun and encourages learning. This is not a waste either. It is not (at least in our situation) taking away from other learning. It is not like we did less math or science so we could spend more time on spelling.

Joined: 05/31/06
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I didn't realize we were simply debating your child. I thought we were debating the topic, which I assumed was spelling bees in general. My bad.

Judging from the three replies on the article this just isn't something that most Americans care much about. I guess I feel the same. We focus a lot more on things like sports, art, dance, etc. I'm a huge fan of integrated learning ~ so the passionate focus on this one small part of the language ~ spelling without meaning, is really backward to me. I'm glad that they are changing the competition to force parents to be less myopic in how they train their children to perform.

AlyssaEimers's picture
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"Potter75" wrote:

I understand that children studying obscure random words are learning how to spell them. I am saying that I think that this is time wasted that could be better spent on other things. I do not think that learning how to spell words that no one has ever heard of, or words that they do not know the meaning of, serves any point. If a child knows how to spell huipil, but has no way to use it.....well......who really cares? I think that it is unbalanced to focus so much on spelling with no thought as to meaning. I like the new focus on meaning/definition, and think that it will help parents to encourage more balance for their children.

I am not debating just my child. My children are just the experience that I have. I do not see how anyone can think teaching a child to spell is a waste.

Joined: 03/08/03
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I'm less interested in spelling bees than in spelling in general. It's a lost art. I see so many professional items with incorrect spelling: ads, signs, resumes, business correspondence, etc. It drives me nuts. It's one thing to rush off a post or an email, it's another to think it doesn't matter anymore.

We didn't have spelling bees where I grew up but I used to wish we did because I was very good at spelling!

Amusingly, my uncle is an incredibly smart academic-minded man who became a lawyer and then dean of a law school, and has written books, and is an esteemed professor, and he still can't spell.

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"AlyssaEimers" wrote:

I am not debating just my child. My children are just the experience that I have. I do not see how anyone can think teaching a child to spell is a waste.

This is a good example of how working on reading comprehension is so important, not just spelling ;). Nowhere did I say that learning to spell is a waste! Obviously learning HOW to spell is very important! Critical, in fact. However, I believe that learning how to spell words that one does know the meaning of is pointless. Context, critical! Sentence structure, imperative! Meaning, everything!

There are only so many hours in a day. I'm sure a homeschooler is very well aware of that. So yes, I do feel that it could be time wasted to focus on learning how to spell words that one can't use in lieu of learning other critical skills like math or geography, or whatever it is that that time could be used on.

KimPossible's picture
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"Potter75" wrote:

There are only so many hours in a day. I'm sure a homeschooler is very well aware of that. So yes, I do feel that it could be time wasted to focus on learning how to spell words that one can't use in lieu of learning other critical skills like math or geography, or whatever it is that that time could be used on.

I think people who get into the spelling bee thing don't do it in place of regular curriculum, its more of a secondary thing, almost like an extra curricular. I know my own school made everyone participate, but how much you put into it was really up to you. If you wanted to advance? You spent more time working on it. If you really didn't care, you spent little time at all and it ultimately has no bearing on your grades. So i don't think that time spent memorizing words really detracts from time learning other things anymore so than any other extra curricular does.

I get not being all into it in general though, or maybe secretly hoping ones kids have no interest in doing it. Emma seemed very excited about the spelling bee this year and if that excitement had stuck, i wouldn't have been bothered by her putting in a lot of time to do well in it. Nor would i have been concerned that her regular curriculum was not teaching her enough about math or geography. I'm not super disappointed that she lost interest either though Smile

Joined: 08/17/04
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I remember doing spelling bees in class but it was to help with our spelling/vocab in elementary school and they were the fun activity for the week. In middle school it was an after school event not time during class.

ClairesMommy's picture
Joined: 08/15/06
Posts: 2299

"AlyssaEimers" wrote:

I am not a huge fan of phonics only. There are so many exceptions and not everyone learns that way. Every word I know how to spell, at some point I memorised. Even now, when I see spell check has showed me a word is spelled wrong, I study it so that I know how to spell it the next time. DH and Alyssa work differently. They see a word one or two times and in most cases know how to spell it. They do use each word in a spelling bee in a sentence.

Neither am I. I don't recall saying I was.

All the words you learn are committed to memory eventually (unless it's a particular word that for whatever reason you can never remember how to spell). Just because I'm a firm believer in phonics to aid in teaching children how to read does not mean that you apply phonics in everything you read for the rest of your life. It teaches vocabulary building blocks and I think that's far more important than memorizing a long or unusual word and looking at it as just ONE word instead of a combination of different word sounds.

Spacers's picture
Joined: 12/29/03
Posts: 4100

The spelling bees here have always had a preliminary round which is a combined spelling and vocabulary test. You have to pass that to advance to the round-robin spelling bee part. I thought that was pretty standard. If you don't know what the words mean, then it's nothing more than rote memorization and at that point you might as well memorize something more fun like the state capitals in reverse alphabetical order, or the list of prepositions in the English language, or the wild birds native to North America.

I remember a spelling bee in 7th grade, it was down to me & a girl named Melanie. I got the word omelet, which I spelled like that. I was judged incorrect. Melanie spelled it omelette and won, I got second place. I went back to my classroom, got a dictionary, and took it back to the room where the spelling bee was being held. I showed them that omelet is the standard U.S. spelling while omelette is considered to be borrowed French. The wimpy judges decided we both won, my silver statue was traded in for a second gold statue, and I never joined another spelling bee.

Joined: 03/08/03
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"Spacers" wrote:

I remember a spelling bee in 7th grade, it was down to me & a girl named Melanie. I got the word omelet, which I spelled like that. I was judged incorrect. Melanie spelled it omelette and won, I got second place. I went back to my classroom, got a dictionary, and took it back to the room where the spelling bee was being held. I showed them that omelet is the standard U.S. spelling while omelette is considered to be borrowed French. The wimpy judges decided we both won, my silver statue was traded in for a second gold statue, and I never joined another spelling bee.

That reminds me of a story...in 8th grade we had public speaking, and each class picked a person to go compete in front of the school. My class picked my speech but my teacher loved this other girl's speech too, so he pulled some strings (he was also the vice principal) and got both of us in there. She ended up winning for the school, I came in second, and she went on and won the championship in our district/area.

I guess he was right, if you look at it that way, but as a kid I felt really gypped. Plus she was a friend of mine. It was so awkward.

But now when I think about it, he was obviously right that she should have been in there.

I guess. Sad