Stellar Spellers?
January 7, 2011 7:50 PM   Subscribe

How can I make a spelling bee for a group of adult professionals the most fun ever?

Next Wednesday is in-service day for faculty at my small community college. When I was asked to present a break-out session, I decided we should play a big game instead of talking about Blackboard or "authentic" assessment for the millionth time. I am having a mini spelling bee, and I would like to hear your ideas for making it light and fun.

Some important facts:

The session is 50 minutes long.

The participants will be community college faculty and possibly administration.

I expect about 20 people.

This day is usually boring and grueling, so people are expecting to have their souls crushed. Breakout sessions are supposed to be for professional development, but this is just for fun. I'm surprised it was approved, actually.

I know many people hate spelling, but I've had enthusiastic responses so far.

Ideas I already have:
The idea of participating alone will be freaky to some people, so I thought I'd have two big teams compete against each other.

In addition to having regular spelling words, I thought I'd include some more gimmicky challenges. Spelling backwards, spelling with a partner, and spelling the names of other coworkers are ideas I have had.


At the beginning and/or throughout, I could show brief, funny videos related to spelling.

I would love to hear all of your ideas to make this a great time. Do you know of any good resources? What other challenges could I use? What would make great prizes? Are there any good video clips I could use?
posted by TrarNoir to Work & Money (22 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

Good video clips- rent the documentary Spellbound and see what you can use. Parts of it are totally charming and hilarious.
posted by charmedimsure at 8:11 PM on January 7, 2011

From my own experience: make sure you have way, way, WAY more words than you think you'd need. Also, make sure you have the correct pronunciations right in front of you, too. (Yes, this is "just for fun," but nothing makes something un-fun faster than something that isn't well organized. Take this un-serious thing seriously, dang it!)
posted by Madamina at 9:08 PM on January 7, 2011

I'd suggest coming up with humorous (adult?) sentences to use if someone needs a word in context.
posted by Gorgik at 10:15 PM on January 7, 2011

What Madamina said. Be organized, be accurate. Have the correct pronunciations, correct usages, correct spellings. Have rules, and apply them fairly. Otherwise, people will become frustrated and irritable.

Give word books as prizes. Puns, interesting usages, slang dictionaries, etc.
posted by SLC Mom at 10:50 PM on January 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

Cool! We did a game last year for a code of ethics. Madamina is right, have lots of words. We had 20 questions and the presenter kind ran through them pretty fast. It was over in half an hour!

We had a hard time getting contestants up at the front despite the allure of prizes. We forsaw that and one contestant was a plant, so maybe asking some contestants ahead of time will help build enthusiasm. We also had a plant heckler :-D Hope that helps and have fun!
posted by Calzephyr at 10:54 PM on January 7, 2011

We play a spelling game:

Called Sizzle, Pop, or any of a dozen other names, stand everyone up in a circle. Give the word, then point to a person to start spelling it. Going around the circle, each person says ONE LETTER of that word. If anybody misses their letter, they're out, they do a shot, they pay a dollar, or some other silly penalty.

If you're looking to force eliminations, the person after the person that spells the last letter is out automatically - presumably, random chance will prevent anyone from getting too angry about that.
posted by chrisinseoul at 11:35 PM on January 7, 2011

If they're academics let them write the most esoteric hard to spell words from their fields down (one each) and shuffle them into the word pack. Has to be a real word but beyond that the skys the limit.
posted by fshgrl at 11:53 PM on January 7, 2011

Add booze, shake, and enjoy.
posted by ZaneJ. at 2:24 AM on January 8, 2011

there has to be a way to combine/photoshop etc, a picture of Tori Spelling, and Aunt Bee (from Andy Griffith) Someone more creative than me at this hour, will figure out the coolest way to use it.
posted by timsteil at 3:27 AM on January 8, 2011

Mine Mrs. Byrne's Dictionary for strange words.
posted by plinth at 3:33 AM on January 8, 2011

Don't have them spell as individuals. Make it a team thing -- 3 people per team, preferably. Let them consult and have the team captain spell for the team. This way, when they mess up in some fashion that could embarrass them, they have the cover of being able to say, "Well, I told my team..."

Be sure to have sentences for your words -- so you give the word, a definition, and then a sentence in which the word is used correctly. Have fun with those sentences -- make them informative to help the spellers, but try for some humor.

To make it more fun for the audience, see if you can arrange to have the word, correctly spelled, projected so the audience can see it, but the team spelling cannot.

Just a few tips from my experience doing one of these...
posted by driley at 4:25 AM on January 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

Seconding the team concept, particularly in this setting.

Here's what I've seen work in the past:

Divide the group into two teams (or three). Each group is then allotted sixty seconds to spell as many words correctly as they can. The word pool should be words that people know and have a decent shot at spelling correctly, nothing too esoteric.

Teams stand in a line. Once someone has spelled their word, the next person quickly moves forward to receive the next word. The game then becomes about speed and encouraging team camaraderie. If someone gets a word wrong, it's no big deal, the next person simply moves forward and nobody loses face.

Decide how many rounds you'll play in advance and have A LOT of words ready. In this context you won't be reading definitions or providing examples; the moderator just reads the next word. This style is a lot of fun and can definitely promote team bonding.

(As a side note, I'd even leave a minute or two at the beginning for teams to choose a team name. Then, refer to that team by their team name for the remainder of the spelling bee. It can be pretty funny.)
posted by WaspEnterprises at 7:00 AM on January 8, 2011

Make it patently unfair. A friend of mine was at an adult spelling bee where every once in a while, someone would be given a word like "synecdoche" or "amorphous" and the next person would be given "cat." The judges humorously refused to acknowledge the disparity. It wound up being hilarious.
posted by sarling at 7:11 AM on January 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

I run pub trivia nights as a side job. People love, love, love little wrinkles to a game. Give everyone a red card they can use to get a hint--maybe you give them the next three letters in the word for free. Also, give them a green card they can use before spelling a word; if they get it right, it's worth double points. Things like that don't usually end up affecting the final outcome all that much, but it makes people feel like they have more control over their score and gets them invested.

Also, maybe bonus rounds where each team nominates a representative who has to spell as many words in sixty seconds as they can. Having little bursts of drama in the middle of the regular game spices things up.
posted by EarBucket at 7:13 AM on January 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

I recently saw the 25th Annual Putnum County Spelling Bee and a funny thing they did, as each kid was eliminated, they got a juice box and a snack.
It was cute.
posted by NoraCharles at 7:56 AM on January 8, 2011

If you're able to show YouTube videos as part of your presentation, this Bob and Ray Spelling Bee skit is hilarious.
posted by Oriole Adams at 12:10 PM on January 8, 2011

I hate spelling bees. I am an academic. I hate them. But if you made it ridiculous, it would be OK. I like sarling's idea, make it absurd and silly.
posted by fifilaru at 3:29 PM on January 8, 2011

Do you have access to PowerPoint? Put the word to be spelled up on the screen in such a way that the audience can see it but the contestant(s) can't. This is our go-to derivative of Cranium.
posted by awenner at 4:08 PM on January 8, 2011

Unless it would offend people, use "dirty" words.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 4:37 PM on January 8, 2011

Thanks for all of these great ideas! I think this is going to be a great time!
posted by TrarNoir at 3:38 PM on January 9, 2011

The spelling bee went very smoothly, and the participants raved about having something fun to do. I marked as best answer the ideas that I actually used for this session.
posted by TrarNoir at 5:07 PM on January 12, 2011

« Older What are your tact hacks?   |   An arm clothed in white Samite... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.