At A.J. Dorsa Elementary, where I serve, I saw that students do not have an annual school spelling bee. This seemed like a lost opportunity to build and sustain a culture of literacy, in addition to certain skills and traits. After all, a spelling bee injects a healthy level of competition and school pride that encourages students to practice academic and studying skills outside class. It also imparts valuable life lessons about how to perform in front of an audience, and handle failure or success with grace.
So, I decided in early-November to put together A.J. Dorsa’s first annual spelling bee. After advertising using various media, I held a written qualifier at the start of December at which approximately 125 students spanning first- and fifth- grade tentatively filed into the cafeteria to write down twenty five words I had practiced reading aloud. After identifying the top 25 scores, I announced the winners over the morning intercom – 12 fifth graders, 7 fourth graders, 5 third graders, and 1 second grader advanced. Later, I discovered that students could barely contain their nervous enthusiasm as I read the names.
Shortly before winter break, I explained the rules and procedures to those 25 students and ran a mock bee. I also gave them practice and challenge words to show them the difficulty and pacing to expect. Returning from break, I saw a slow yet inexorable build-up of excitement and anticipation among students, teachers, and staff. This energy spilled into the cafeteria the day of the bee, and I’m proud to say it was a success! The cafeteria was packed with students, friends, and family, and I could hear gasps when a student misspelled a word or when the field was narrowed to the final two. Eventually, a fifth grader prevailed, and I could not be more proud of her. In less than a month, she and the runner-up, a fourth grader, will be participating in the district-wide spelling bee. I look forward to encouraging them and, just as much, returning to Dorsa next year to, among other things, plan a bigger and better Spelling Bee!
-Scott Aguila, Corps Member, NVIDIA/Synopsys Team at A.J. Dorsa Elementary School