Word Traveler: Bee the speller

This feature is for all word lovers as well as those studying for the SAT and seeking to learn new vocabulary.

How can one prepare for a spelling bee? Here's a short list of ideas:

  • Look words up constantly. Keep a dictionary in every room and at your desk.
  • Keep a spelling journal of words you want to remember or need to learn.
  • Take spelling quizzes.
  • Pay closer attention to the way words look. Use visualization.
  • Read the spelling rules in a dictionary's introduction.
  • Play spelling or word games like Scrabble™ and do crossword puzzles.
  • Pay attention to the way dictionary entries are separated into syllables.
  • Proper pronunciation is also an important part of correct spelling, so practice pronouncing the words, too.
  • Reading the definitions is another tool; the stronger the associations you make with a particular word, the more likely you are to remember its spelling.
  • The origin or etymology of the word is another aid to better spelling; each word often shares its root or roots with other words and these associations may help you spell it and its relatives correctly.
  • Look at lists of commonly misspelled words.
  • Learn how to become an expert proofreader. Use the Scripps National Spelling Bee study aids.

And here is something you can do for any of the whole slew of Latin and Greek roots. Let's take unus. It is the root of these words:

  • E pluribus unum: motto of U.S., "one out of many" states
  • unicorn (with cornu "horn"): mythical horse with one horn
  • unicycle (with kyklos "ring or circle"): a bicycle with only one wheel
  • uniform (with forma "form"): having the same form; unchanging
  • unilateral (with latus "side"): one-sided
  • union: act of making one out of many
  • unique: one of a kind; unequaled
  • unison (with sonus "sound"): voices singing or musical instruments playing the same notes together
  • unit: one part of a series or a whole
  • united: together as one
  • universe (with verto/versum "turn"): star galaxy which turns as one entity
  • university (with verto/versum): many colleges jointed together to function as one

Since Latin and Greek roots are so important to the mastery of English, this type of study is extremely helpful with SAT and spelling bee preparation.

The Scripps National Spelling Bee study booklet says, "Knowing how to spell a word is of limited value if one cannot also use it in a sentence, understand it in a book, or use it to articulate thoughts." They encourage students to find the definitions and pronunciations for words and especially to make spelling study fun by creatively incorporating games and other group activities. How cool is it to spell a word correctly!?! You can increase your chances of doing so if you interest is there and you follow some or all of the above suggestions.

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