MUST Watch: Natl Spelling Bee: 6 Ways to Spell F-A-M-I-L-Y F-U-N

by | Jun 3, 2010 | Late Breaking News, School Success and Learning

Do you want to watch some of the best young minds of today face courage under enormous pressure? Then forget the Laker Games, Soccer’s Word Cup, Dancing with the Stars or even (I know, I know…) American Idol. It’s the National Spelling Bee and it airs tonight. Set that TiVO or put those chairs for your kids (and you) front and center. This is the one time you do want your kids to be plugged in and watching.

Over the next two days 273 kids from all over the world will display their amazing spelling talents. The big event will be aired on ESPN and ABC (as well as the Internet) and that makes for fabulous family entertainment. The championship prize: $30,000 in cash, a $5,000 scholarship, a $2500 savings bond and other prizes.

It is starting right now in Washington DC and—at least in my book—it’s one of the world’s greatest kid competition. (I admit the bias, but then I’m a former teacher). Best yet, the finals will be televised!

A little background about the Spelling Bee to tell your kids to get them excited:

  • The first National Spelling Bee was in 1925 with only nine contestants.
  • This year there are 273 spelling contestants who range in age from 8 to 15.
  • The contestants were among 11 million third-through eighth grade students who competed in local bees in all 50 states as well as U.S. territories and Canada but also as far away as China, Ghana and New Zealand.
  • 144 males and 129 females will grace their presence on that stage.
  • Fifty-six of this year’s spellers were in last year’s bee, including the only four-time repeat competitor: eighth-grader Neetu Chandak of Seneca Falls, New York (who finished eighth last year).
  • 11% of these kids are home-schooled; 68% of the spellers are from public schools.

6 Fun Ways to Your Family Into the Spelling Bee Spirit and Boost L-E-A-R-N-I-N-G

I’m hoping you can share this learning experience with your kids. Watching the spelling bee can be a great opportunity for children to witness tenacity, learn vocabulary and even observe different learning styles!

Tell your child to watch the special techniques each speller uses to help recall that word. That’s a great teachable moment to help your child identify the best way he can learn his school spelling words. (Hint: Last year’s winner, 13 year-old Kavya Shivashankar, used her index finger to write her words on her palm before giving her answer.)

In particular: have your kids tune into third-grader Vanya Shivashankar of Olathe, Kanasa. She is just eight years old (!)–the youngest entrant–and sister of last year’s champ, Kavya. She’s been attending the bee since she was four years old!!)

Here are a few other fun ideas to capture the spelling bee spirit both before and after the competition — some adapted straight from the National Spelling Bee.

  • Link onto to check your spelling skills as a family with words from the 2008 preliminaries
  • Host a spelling bee party at your house tonight or tomorrow (or TVo the event so kids can view it on the weekends).
  • Keep the spelling bee momentum going after Friday’s competition by setting out Scrabble or Bananagrams (or however you spell it) to play as a family.
  • Hang up a piece paper to add new spelling or vocabulary words. Set a vocabulary book on your dining table to learn a word a day as a family. Or go to and subscribe free to the Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day.
  • Watch Akeelah and the Bee or the documentary Spellbound with your older kids on your family movie night. (I loved Spellbound!)

Make sure you have your Webster’s dictionary handy because you and the kids may need to look up some of these words. (For starters try “Weissnichtwo” or  “humuhumunukunukuapuaa.” I had to check that one three times just to make sure I put all the letters in the right spot, and I had the correct spelling in front of me!)

Kids need to recognize that a key reason those 273 spelling bee champs made it to Washington DC was due to the hours and hours of practicing and extraordinary tenacity. Each contestant studied over 472,000 words in the official spelling bee dictionary.

Amazing, eh? No wonder we’re cheering these kids on!

One more thing: would you pleeeeease point out that great old homespun virtue called, P.E.R.S.E.R.V.E.R.A.N.C.E. and how it was key to these incredible kids’ success. (They studied and studied and studied!!!)

Now go pop that popcorn. Get ready. This is chilling entertainment. And it provides fabulous teachable moments. This is one television event I hope every  kid watches.

P.S. In case you’re wondering, a humuhumunukunukuapuaa is a small Hawaiian triggerfish. Weissnichtwo means an indefinite, unknown or imaginary place. They were voted as last year’s contestants’ favorite words. What can I say?

Scripps National Spelling Bee TV Schedule

Do check your local listing but here is what is currently posted for TV schedule:

  • The competition started yesterday with a 50-word written test that all spellers take. Only 25 of the words count toward a qualifying score (but the kids won’t know which words)
  • Thursday (today) determines how many semifinals will move to the finals (on Friday) It may not be on TV but I’m betting you can catch snippets on You-Tube and the nightly news.
  • ESPN will broadcast the semi-finals. ABC will broadcast the finals.
  • Semifinals will air live 10 am-1 pm, est on Friday on ESPN.
  • The finals will be broadcast on ABC 8-10 pm Friday on ABC where only a dozen or so finalists will remain and the winner is crowned.