Spelling bees have been around since 1925, starting in the United States and spreading worldwide. In recent years they have experienced a resurgent, in part, due to the media, books and movies about spelling bees. Spelling bees combine the exciting, competitive spirit of sports with the world of academics. Preparing for a spelling bee is a serious commitment and involves much training, not unlike preparing for a running marathon, practicing for the football team, giving an oral report from memory to a group, or getting ready for a violin recital.
The E. W. Scripps National Spelling Bee, operated out of its Cincinnati, Ohio office, and partnered with Merriam-Webster, producers of the dictionary, manages spelling bees around the country. They work with local public and private schools, and other organizations to standardize the spelling bee process. A student interested in competing in the spelling bee needs to make sure that the school they attend is officially enrolled in the Scripps programs. Additionally, Scripps has specific requirements for potential bee contestants regarding their age, grade and school status.
Students who’ve had greatest success with spelling bees enjoy language and words, are masterful with prefixes and suffixes and are knowledgeable of Latin and Greek root words, and typically know the definitions of these words; they take pride in expanding their vocabulary while experimenting with new words. They are familiar with Paideia, the list of thirty-six hundred words that are used by the bees for selecting words. Bee winners enjoy reading and word games, popular board games and interactive games online.
There are commercial products available that some participants choose for honing their spelling acumen, though there appears to be no correlation between students who utilize these programs and contest success. Software can be downloaded for additional spelling bee practice. And there are preparation courses that are offered to assist bee contestants fine-tune their spelling ability. But perhaps the best preparation for any spelling bee is day-to-day attentiveness to word.