Bees, Words and Spells
January 6, 2017 1:58 AM   Subscribe

What apps have you found or know to be useful when preparing a 8th grader for multiple Spelling Bees?

So, my daughter is participating in Spelling bee competitions this year. Last year, without much preparation, she reached the regional stages where she got nervous and lost in the later rounds.

This year, she wants to practice more rigorously. To help her, I am looking for any iOS or Android apps (phone or tablets). I looked a few, but they don't seem to be well-designed. Key requirements:

1. Select a grade level and get words accordingly
2. Practice mode - where lists of words are displayed with an option to hear the pronunciation, part of speech, definition etc
3. Test Mode - where she can get a test (she can ask for the word to be repeated, look up parts of speech etc) and get scored accordingly
4. Bonus, if the dictionary used is based on Webster's unabridged Dictionary of the English language, since that is what most spell bees are using these days.

Currently, we are hunting difficult words from the dictionary and making lists, but that doesn't seem effective strategy.

Any other tips etc are also welcome (not related to the app, but to spelling bees in general).
posted by theobserver to Education (3 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I ended up a spelling bee geek for a stint as a kid. I really liked words, and read the OED for fun. I'd just let her relax and leaf through Webster's Unabridged, and steer clear of making lists and otherwise practicing.

I have long thought that this is a skill you either have or don't. The kids who studied were the ones who were prone to getting nervous and losing. The kids who simply read a lot and got a kick out of being able to spell even words they hadn't heard before were generally the ones who came out on top. I don't think it's like track and field where more practice trying to shorten your sprint time is helpful; I think the ideal thing is just to chill out and enjoy reading. There is more value in casually leafing through the dictionary (or something like a one-volume abridged encyclopaedia) and sharpening your general familiarity with English so that your guess at how to spell ANY word is well-honed over trying to memorise lists with boring, context-free words.

My ability to spell well has meant @#$* all for the rest of my life, so if she's not into it, I wouldn't push it. Honestly, it's very depressing -- most people do not spell terribly well, and most people simply do not care if you can or not. I have entered into correspondence with a modest number of quite fascinating, published, well-known individuals. Many of them, it turns out, cannot spell worth a D-A-M-N.

I also want to suggest reading the newspaper, which was a thing that left me with the ability to correct the spelling of everything from athletes' names (I don't follow sport at all) to mastering technical, medical, botanical, and other specialized terminology, but newspapers are so dumbed down now that I'm not sure that's useful. Those old "The Penguin Dictionary of XYZ" are excellent for thumbing through and learning relatively obscure terms, though -- and much more interestingly, because the problem with lists is that they are boring -- very boring -- I would not have done that if paid. But reading interesting squibs about politics or sociology or chemistry? Neat! And much easier to remember the spelling if you learned, in a pleasant context, the meaning.
posted by kmennie at 10:39 AM on January 6, 2017

Painless roots is a good app for learning roots, which at the eighth grade level is probably going to be more effective than just learning lists of words, since it will help her figure out how to spell words she's never encountered before.
posted by Dojie at 11:41 AM on January 7, 2017

@kmennie: I agree, in general. She does a lot of reading (at the rate where she has a Amazon Kindle Unlimited + memberships at a couple of networked libraries). She is also the one who is keen to do the whole thing.

The issue is that many of the words are not intuitive, since other languages are not written the way they are spelled (Germanic, for example) and English does have a lot of borrowed words from Latin, French, German, Greek, Dutch languages.

@Dojie: That is a good suggestion - I will look it up.
posted by theobserver at 9:34 PM on January 8, 2017

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