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Norman Rockwell, 1918, “Cousin Reginald Spells Peloponnesus” painting provides evidence of the five generations of influence that Webster’s spelling books had on students in the United States. Noah Webster’s curriculum, more commonly known as “The Blue-backed Speller,” initial publication was in 1786, which encouraged spelling bee’s, or spelling match competitions amongst students in schools across the America’s dating back to 1808, a year in which James Madison, founding father, was elected as the 4th President of the United States.




A spelling competition, where contestants are asked to spell words with a varying degree of difficulty helps to motivate children to take a keen interest in enriching their vocabulary, and pronunciation skills. Encouraging students to become “Spell-e-brities,” by studying the spelling lists decided by teachers in the weeks leading up to a spellathon, places emphasis on the importance of correct spelling. Consequently, it will plant a seed in children that ultimately helps them to become effective, and impressive communicators as adults. Additionally, a spelling bee is a unique way of raising funds for your school!

How to organize a spellathon? What will it look like amongst the students at a local school?

Spelling bee students usually start competition in elementary school, or middle school. Begin by competing against other classes in the same grade, or level, and the winning class is determined by the score of each class, upon which a school spelling bee might determine which child will represent his or her school at district, state, and national competitions. Akeelah and the Bee, a film released in 2006, can be used as inspiration to show students how an 11-year-old girl, Akeelah, overcame obstacles in dealing with the esteem, stigma, and pressures, when she competed against her peers in a spellathon that started at her public school, and rose to greater competitions at both districts and state levels to ultimately winning a national championship.

An article written by Amy Reiter for Kidspot, Tips for Organizing a Spelling Bee, provides some of the basic steps for a team of educators to get started, keeping in mind that the structure can be modified to just a classroom setting, or whole school approach as Reiter explains the steps in the process, but other details like how to compile a word list, use of a microphone, and timer. For further information reference the website:

Moreover, Reiter continues to show her expertise in a second article written for Kidspot,  How to Run a Spelling Bee, where she gets even more specific with step-by-step spelling bee guidelines on how to gather participants; Read clearly and spell carefully; Moving things along; Reinforce; Repeat until you have a winner; Don’t be afraid to mix things up; that enhance both oral spelling competitions, or a non-competitive written spelling bee, so that teachers can take a gradual approach.

In addition,, provides additional tips for that need to be taken 6-12 months before the spelling bee; 3-6 months in advance; 1-2 months in advance; 1-2 weeks in advance; to the day of the spelling bee; after the spelling bee; newsletter sign-up option to receive ongoing freebies that include teaching ideas, and free resources for teachers, and parents when you sign up!

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