May 31st, 2013
11:27 AM ET

New York eighth-grader wins national spelling bee

By CNN Staff

(CNN) - Arvind Mahankali, a 13-year-old eighth-grader from Bayside Hills, New York, won the Scripps National Spelling Bee on Thursday, correctly spelling the word "knaidel.""It means that I am retiring on a good note," said Mahankali, who attends Nathaniel Hawthorne Middle School 74 and was in his last year of eligibility. "I shall spend the summer, maybe the entire day, studying physics."

Mahankali, who wants to become a physicist, had finished third in the two previous national bees, being eliminated after misspelling words with German roots.

"I thought that the German curse had turned into a German blessing," he said, when asked what he thought when he heard the final word, a German-derived Yiddish word for a type of dumpling.

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April 9th, 2013
04:04 PM ET

National Spelling Bee adds vocabulary challenge

By CNN Staff

(CNN) - It's not enough to be a fantastic speller anymore. A student who wants to win the National Spelling Bee must now be a whiz at vocabulary. The Scripps National Spelling Bee will add the evaluation of vocabulary to the competition's early rounds, according to a release from the bee.

"It represents a deepening of the bee's commitment to its purpose: to help students improve their spelling, increase their vocabularies, learn concepts and develop correct English usage that will help them all their lives," said Paige Kimble, the director of the bee.

"Spelling and vocabulary are, in essence, two sides of the same coin," she said. "As a child studies the spelling of a word and its etymology, he will discover its meaning. As a child learns the meaning of a word, it becomes easier to spell. And all of this enhances the child's knowledge of the English language."

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June 1st, 2012
01:10 PM ET

San Diego eighth-grader wins Scripps National Spelling Bee

By CNN Wire Staff

(CNN) - Snigdha Nandipati, 14, won the Scripps National Spelling Bee on Thursday night by spelling "guetapens," which means an ambush, snare or trap.

"I was just taking it one word at a time," the eighth-grader from San Diego told CNN on Friday morning. "I just wanted to get each word right. I didn't really think about winning, really."

The agony and ecstasy of the National Spelling Bee

She said that properly spelling the winning word, which is derived from French, was not difficult. She had seen the word before and knew it, she said.

Nandipati didn't truly register her victory until the confetti started falling, she said.

"I didn't expect to win. There were some very good competitors this year," she said.

In last year's spelling bee, she tied for 27th place.

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Sweet 'spell' of success
Sukanya Roy of South Abington Township, Pennsylvania reacts after winning the 2011 Scripps National Spelling Bee competition June 2, 2011 in National Harbor, Maryland.
May 30th, 2012
12:02 PM ET

Sweet 'spell' of success

By Carl Azuz, CNN

(CNN) It’s not always easy to watch: young people given increasingly difficult words to spell, standing uncomfortably under lights and cameras, their faces strained or frozen under pressure, their parents watching helplessly from their seats in the audience… They’re all components of the tournament that crowns America’s best speller.

If you look back at the National Spelling Bee’s winning words of the 1930s and 40s, you’ll see quite a few you can handle: fracas, knack, torsion, initials, psychiatry. In more recent years, with many more students competing with far more intensity, most of us need a dictionary – not just for the spellings, but for the definitions of the words themselves.

When was the last time you used Ursprache, appoggiatura, Laodicean or cymotrichous in a sentence? (When was the last time you even saw them anywhere?)

Words like these will be either the stumbling blocks or victory laps for the 278 spellers in this year’s Scripps bee. They’re from all over the map, representing ages from 6 to 15. And while they may not be able to drive, buy lottery tickets, vote, or get a beer after the event, they’re all better spellers than we are.

In fact, most of these students are scholars in other areas. Take 6-year-old Lori Anne Madison. She’s been in spelling bees since age 3, but she’s also won awards in mythology and math events. Arvind Mahankali, who’s 12 and came in third place last year, has received an honors award from Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Talented Youth. And 14-year-old Nabeel Rahman came in first place in the middle school National Geographic Bee.

Of course, spelling on its own is hard enough. Everywhere you look, there are misspellings – even the very word looks like it has too many consonants. Whenever Germanic, Old Norse, Latin, French, and Old English got together, two things were inevitable: confusion and compromise.

And those are evident across our lexicon. Remember the “i before e” rule? It had a plethora of exceptions, so spelling tipsters added “or when sounded like ‘ay’, as in neighbor and weigh.” But that isn’t enough to go on because words like height and efficient pop up and throw us further off the tracks. So a better, overall summary might be “i before e, except after c…or whenever.”

As anyone who’s ever written anything in English can tell you, there are a lot of exceptions to our rules of spelling, not to mention differences in British and American spellings (see colour, humour, etc.). The bad news is that sometimes, you just have to memorize words on a case-by-case basis.
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May 30th, 2012
10:40 AM ET

Girl, 6, is youngest competitor in National Spelling Bee history

By Faith Karimi, CNN

(CNN) – When Lori Anne Madison, 6, takes the stage Wednesday, she will be stepping into history as the youngest person to compete in the National Spelling Bee.

The second-grader joins 277 other contestants, marking a milestone as the youngest competitor in the Scripps National Spelling Bee, according to the event's record books dating to 1993.

Since 1993, there have been four spellers who were 8 years old, said Mike Hickerson, the bee's communications manager.

Lori Anne beat out 21 kids in the regional bee in Prince William County in Virginia, earning a spot in the national bee.

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March 14th, 2012
11:59 AM ET

A-M-A-Z-I-N-G: Girl, 6, becomes youngest eligible for Scripps Spelling Bee

Can you say extraordinary?

I suspect that 6-year-old Lori Anne Madison can spell it – and it's one of the best words to describe her.

The young girl from Prince William County, Virginia, has just become the youngest speller eligible to participate in the Scripps National Spelling Bee, according to the event's record books, which date to 1993. Mike Hickerson, the bee's communications manager, said there have been four spellers since 1993 who were 8 years old.

Lori Anne, who is home-schooled, beat out 21 other kids in the county to win the bee, which enters her into the national bee.

The word that thrust her into the spotlight? "Vaquero," the Spanish translation of "cowboy," which is often used in Spanish-speaking parts of the South such as Texas, according to InsideNova.

The paper reported that after one of the last spellers missed her word, Lori Anne stepped up to the microphone, was given her word and without hesitation rattled off the spelling correctly.

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