Spelling Bee Tips and C-O-N-G-R-A-T-S to Fairmont Spelling Champ

Last week, Fairmont Private Schools – Historic Anaheim Campus student Winston Z. (7th grade) won the Orange County Spelling Bee! Winston competed against 46 other top-notch spellers from the county. Spellers ranged from 6th to 8th grade. After 10 rounds of high-stakes spelling, the competition came down to Winston and Audrey L. from St. John’s Episcopal School. In round 13, Winston won the competition by correctly spelling “terete.” We bet his language arts teachers at the Historic Anaheim and Anaheim Hills (Winston’s former campus) campuses are proud!

Winston will move on to the next level of competition at the Scripps National Spelling Bee this summer in Washington D.C. Winston’s county win assured him and a chaperone complimentary trips to the competition. What a summer!

Spelling Bee Tips

In honor of our super speller, Winston Z., here are some tips to become the very best speller you can be!

Write it Out On Your Hand

Like many things in life, words, particularly the spelling of, are easier to spell when viewed in a physical form and not just from the far recesses of one’s mind. Spelling bee contestants are certainly not allowed paper and pen (or pencil, or quill, or crayon, or any other kind of writing tool), but they are allowed their imagination. When asked to spell a word, contestants can pretend to write the word on the back of their hand, using their finger as an imaginary pen. It’ll help them better picture the word and the order of its letters.

Practice Makes Perfect

Spelling bee contestants may be so focused on the spelling, they forget the other skill they’ll need to succeed in competition: the ability to speak in front of others. Practice is essential, not just of spelling, but of doing so in front of an audience. Contestants should practice spelling in front of friends and family and even ask questions to a “practice” moderator.

Learn Diacritics

Back in the day, before Google could simply pronounce a word for you, the little symbols (diacritics) over words in the dictionary was how one learned the correct way to pronounce a word. Spelling bee contestants should get to know these symbols and practice pronouncing with them.

Flashcards Are Your Bestfriend

A large part of being an expert speller is memorization. Contestants or parents, find your (or your child’s) grade level on the 2017 School Spelling Bee Study List (you’ll need a teacher to access this) or Merriam-Webster and Scripps’ Spell It! and create flashcards from the study words. Move on to upper-grade level cards once the first 100 are memorized if using the 2017 study list. Go through the flashcards as often as possible: car rides, waiting rooms, between class assignments, before dance class or soccer practice. Contestants should get to know these cards like a favorite book! And even when moved on to the next grade level’s cards, return back to older sets for refreshers.

Study Roots and Etymology

Memorization is unfortunately not enough. Inevitably amidst the bright lights on that spelling bee stage, the moderator will give at least one word that was missing from that flashcard stack. That is where studying roots and etymology comes in. For example, let’s say a contestant starts studying roots and comes upon the root “vac” which in Latin means “empty.” They’ll start to notice the similarity in definitions of the words with that root, like “vacuum,” “vacation,” and “vacate.” If a word is given at the spelling bee and the definition includes something about being empty, there’s a good chance they’ll know to spell at least part of it “v-a-c”!

It also helps to know etymology, as different origins can help decipher the spelling. For example, if given the German word “seltzer” and a contestant has studied German etymology, they’ll know though there’s a soft “s” sound, German words, compared to English ones, use “t-z” more commonly for that sound.

Read Frequently

Take a break from flashcards and studying to jump into the world of fiction (or non-fiction)! Reading exposes contestants to more words and their correct spellings, even if they aren’t actively studying them. Regardless of what contestants choose to read, make sure it’s at a reading level that introduces new words and presents a challenge. Use the dictionary to look up unknown words for pronunciation and definitions.

Start Reading that Dictionary

Reading anything is helpful, but for serious study, it’s time to sit down with the beast herself: the dictionary. Contestants should read through and accustom themselves with any unfamiliar words and their spellings. Then create flashcards from any words whose spelling will need to be studied. It might be dry, but it’s a sure way to sharpen spelling skills!

While these tips should prove helpful to spelling bee contestants, anyone can use them to better their spelling skills! It’s always a good idea to brush up, even in a world with spell checking programs. You never know when it’ll come in handy!



Photo by: Orange County Department of Education

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Shelby Wagner - 1st Grade Teacher Fairmont Historic AnaheimTop Teacher & Skating Champion
Shelby “My favorite part of being a teacher is the children I get to teach.”
  • Is one of the head teachers for the Fountain Valley Artistic Skating Club, teaching regional and national champions. She also teaches beginner classes every Saturday morning.
  • Every year, her students are amazed to find that their teacher has a life outside of the classroom.
“I love feeling like I’m part of a family [at Fairmont].”
Keira Kamath - 5th Grade Fairmont Anaheim HillsScience & Tennis Superstar
keira “I like how there are so many different specialty classes at Fairmont Anaheim Hills, like art, music, PE, science lab, computer lab, and Spanish.”
  • She would like to be a professional tennis player when she grows up, or maybe a doctor.
  • Loves dance and plays the piano
  • Her favorite class is science “because you get to figure out stuff, and I like to do experiments.”
Nicholas Aghaian - 7th Grade Fairmont Historic AnaheimKicking His Way to Med School
nicolas“The teachers and the amount of support they provide to not only me, but to the whole entire community here at Fairmont is probably what I like most about attending Fairmont Historic Anaheim.”
  • He would like to be a professional soccer player, or a doctor specializing in the field of sports medicine.
  • Enjoys basketball, piano, and soccer pitch.
  • His favorite subject is math “because I like to be challenged, and math is full of challenges.”
Gianluca De Gregoris – 2nd Grade Fairmont North TustinDancing Toward Greatness
dancing"What I like most about Fairmont is that I get to learn and meet new friends.”
  • He wants to be a professional dancer when he grows up.
  • Is trained in ballet and ballroom dancing.
  • Loves writing and creating new stories.
Nicole Heyman - Kindergarten Teacher Fairmont Anaheim HillsLaying a Foundation for Lifelong Learning
Nicole "The best part about teaching at Fairmont is being able to work with a diverse group of students who are all incredibly talented. It is amazing to be able to challenge students at such a young age and watch these children grow throughout the year.”
  • Loves camping, reading, and traveling
  • Her students love learning random things about her – like the fact that when she was in kindergarten she wanted to be Spiderman when she grew up.
  • Her proudest moments are the times when a student on campus is excited to see her, oftentimes telling her that she’s “the best teacher in the world.” “I live for those moments.”
“I choose to teach at Fairmont because of the sense of community, as well as the drive for our students to succeed.”
DJ Clovis - Music Teacher Fairmont North TustinRunning to the Rhythm
DJ Clovis “I get to work with amazing staff, faculty, parents, and most importantly, students!”
  • Teaches music to all grades — from pre-kindergarten through 8th grade
  • Coaches (or has coached) football, basketball, and Run Club
  • Plays bass trombone
  • NJHS Conflict Resolution Coach
  • He has run 15 marathons and 4 ultra marathons.
“The best part of teaching at Fairmont is the autonomy — being able to create a program that fits all of my students. At Fairmont North Tustin, I get to help with a lot of different activities.”