March 7, 2013

Report from the Regional Spelling Bee

Friends at the Boulder Regional Spelling Bee
A few times a year, I invite a guest columnist to write in this space.  This week, our school librarian, deana harragarra waters, reports on the Boulder Regional Spelling Bee, featuring Friends’ School 3rd grader Hayden Miller and recent Friends’ graduate, 6th grader Teddy Schoenfeld.  Following deana’s story, please make sure you scroll down to learn about all the positive changes we’re making at school in our spelling and writing mechanics programs.

Here’s deana:

My husband, Rick and I attended the 2013 Boulder Regional Spelling Bee at Monarch High School.  As parents of two daughters we spent a fair amount of our time attending various academic, musical and athletic competitions locally and nationally.  It was just so nice to be there without the intense nerves that come with watching your child compete.  I particularly remember the first statewide basketball free throw shooting competition that Kelly participated in and Rick said, “I’m so nervous, if I could shoot for her she would win this thing.”  (My husband was a NCAA Division I basketball player and baseball pitcher during his college days.)  On this day Rick said, “These spelling bees are almost like basketball free throw competitions,” and we smiled.

Hayden admirably represented Friends’ School at the Spelling Bee.  This competition, as all competitions, requires more of the individual than just spelling of words. 

First there are nerves with which to contend, and Hayden revealed to me he was “so nervous, more nervous than I’ve ever been.”  Second, there is trusting in one’s own study and preparation.  His participation in the Boulder Regional Spelling Bee is evidence of Hayden’s own diligent studying. 

Third, there is poise.  Hayden is one of a handful of 3rd grade spellers to reach the Regional Spelling Bee on their very first effort and his poise was simply incredible.   Fourth, endurance is required when competing against 52 spellers representing both elementary and middle schools from Boulder County.  Hayden is a 3rd grader competing against 8th graders.

There were 213 words proffered and Hayden exited on the 127th word, “samurai.”  When I first heard this word I thought, Hayden is a reader and I hoped he read Jon Scieszka’s Time Warp Trio series and remembered Sam Samurai. He spelled it with a “n” instead of a “m.”  After the event I asked Hayden if he read the book and his grandmother said, “He will now!” and Hayden smiled. 

deana harragarra waters
Fifth is goal setting.  Hayden’s goal for his first time at the Regional Spelling Bee was getting through the first round successfully and he did.  Last but certainly not the least is sportsmanship.  Hayden left the stage reflecting a confidence and happiness for doing all that he could in the day’s event, to rejoin his proud Dad, sister and grandparents.  He remained to the very end of the event to support and congratulate Friends’ School alum, Teddy Schoenfeld.  

Teddy’s mother, Julie, asked if I would support Teddy because she didn’t think any of his middle school teachers even knew he was at the Spelling Bee.  Why yes, of course, we’re all Friends’ family.  Rick and I gladly stayed until the end of the spelling bee.  We sat in the back and I wrote down every word proffered, including the incorrect spellings.  Toward the end of the spelling bee the Daily Camera reporter (sitting behind me) asked me twice to look at my list of spelling words.  So I was glad to be of assistance for his Sunday story. 

Teddy finished second in the entire district and we were so proud of him and Friends’ School.

What a joy it was to support Hayden and Teddy.  They are truly young gentlemen who possess that “grit” that we educators so desire to instill in our students.  On a sunny February afternoon, as I closed my car’s door, I heard Hayden’s grandfather say to him, “You’re the hero of the day”, and Hayden smiled.

I was especially touched by the fact Hayden’s grandparents were part of his big day.  There’s a saying among Indian people that goes like this, “You know you’re Indian if you think your grandparents are the greatest people in the world.”  My Grandpa loved reading and shared that love with his children and grandchildren.  I thank his teachers at Rainy Mountain Kiowa Indian Boarding School who taught him, in 1897, how to read, play every instrument in the band and allowed him to play baseball (he wanted to be a New York Yankee one day).  

deana, thank you for sharing your story from the Spelling Bee. Congratulations to both Hayden and Teddy.  For more on Teddy’s second place finish, you can read the Daily Camera’s story, complete with pictures, here.

At a staff meeting this week, the teachers informed me that the spelling ability and skills among the current third, fourth, and fifth graders is higher than it’s ever been at Friends’.  This is because five years ago, Friends’ adopted new spelling programs.  Our students practice and get lessons on spelling several times a week.  We are now seeing the fruits of those efforts, yet we want to raise the bar even higher.  While not all of our students are natural spellers (no matter how much I practice my tennis game, I fear I will never make it to Wimbledon), we want them to graduate from Friends’ with all the skills they will need to succeed in middle school and beyond.

Our Kindergarten and 1st grade classes continue to use the successful Primary Spelling by Pattern program and pay attention to their word walls.  In second grade and up, we have made significant enhancements to our programs on spelling, punctuation, writing mechanics and capitalization.  Leading up to January, I asked the teachers to examine their schedules and their time with our literacy specialist, Tricia Callahan, to incorporate more time to focus on these skills.  The second grade now has more time to work in smaller groups to focus on their spelling program, learning sight words, alphabetizing, dictionary skills, and punctuation.

In third grade and up, students use the more advanced Spellography spelling.  Third graders also build vocabulary using Wordly Wise.  The fourth grade class spends more time on writing mechanics and the teachers have raised their expectations for correct spelling and usage in every day writing.  In fifth grade, several students have graduated from the Spellography program and are working on classical roots.  Across all grades 2-5, students now take spelling tests and teachers are holding students more accountable for the conventions of writing.

Our plan, as always, is that an increased focus on academic skills and accountability in the upper grades will mean that our students have all they need to be successful while at Friends' and once they leave Friends’.  Spelling is only one small part of our academic program where we’re proud to be finding success.


Hayden said...

Hi. This is me, Hayden. Thanks for all this and for supporting me. SAMURAI!

Steve de Beer said...

Hayden, we're all so proud of you. I bet you'll never forget how to spell that word again in your life!

Anonymous said...

Congratulations to both Hayden and Teddy great job!