The Spelling Bee Team: A New Approach

Times Spelling Bee

Spelling Bee. A group of kids come together and begin to spell words. The last one standing is the Champion. One winner, and all the other kids who didn’t win are left feeling like losers. I know what I’m talking about because of personal experience, and because of what I’ve seen at Spelling Bee competitions year in and year out.

You see, a long time ago, in 1976, when I was 14 years old, I came in second place in a Spelling Bee. To this very day, 37 years later, I have not forgotten what it feels like to come in second place in a Spelling Bee.

Trust me, it’s a pretty miserable feeling, so you can imagine what it feels like to come in 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, etc. It only gets worse. You think about all that studying you did…for nothing. No matter how much the teachers tell you you are a winner, you feel like it was all a waste of time.

Nevertheless, let’s face it, participating in a Spelling Bee is tradition. Not only in the USA, but around the world, in places like Japan, Jamaica, India, China, Africa and Russia, kids participate in Spelling Bees. You see, after you get over the fact that you did not win, you are left with a love of words that sticks with you the rest of your life.

It seems the teachers were right all along. In the long run, participating in a Spelling Bee makes you a better speller, a better writer, increases your understanding of the written and spoken word, and gives you an advantage when it comes to learning anything based on literacy skills.

Still, I must admit, second place leaves a bitter taste in your memory that never…completely…goes…away. Not even after 37 years, and trust me, I know what I’m talking about. I honestly would like to have one more shot at winning, not based on my performance on spelling every word, but on speed spelling.

OK, it could be a good combination to have a team spelling competition, giving points for each word spelled correctly by the team members. Of course, when you misspelled a word, you would be eliminated.

But you would get one more chance, again, as a member of a team. The team would have to spell as many words as possible in two minutes, getting points for each word spelled correctly. And check this out: if the word was too hard or weird, you could “pass”, not even spell the word. You would lose points for misspelled words, so you would have to be sure of yourself when spelling.

Imagine a competition like that. Somehow, coming in second in a team Spelling Bee competition does not seem to be as traumatic to me. I mean, when you are part of a team that has lost, you kind of share the pain of defeat, and you are not crushed for 37 years by the defeat. There are more shoulders to distribute the disappointment among, to carry the burden, and to mutually support one another.

Recently, I heard about a Spelling Bee competition just like I outlined above. It’s called the “Times Spelling Bee”. It’s a team competition. There’s a winning team. For example, the winner of the 2012 Times Spelling Bee was the team from Colchester County High School.


In the USA, the winner of the Scripps National Spelling Bee was Snigdha Nandipati. Congratulations, but I can tell you, somebody came in second place… Somebody always comes in second place…

In December 2013, we wil see the first international Spelling Bee sponsored by Scripps. Though details have not been released, it is likely that teams of three students will represdent their countries, almost like Olympic athletes, competing academically.

“The Bee’s profile has risen in conjunction with the global trend of English-language learning,” Kimble said, pointing out to this year’s group of super-spellers that 750 million people already speak English as a first or second language and another 750 million are learning English as a foreign language. “That’s more than 1.5 billion people right now who are either speaking or learning English. By the year 2020, there will be 2 billion.”

Read more:


The Spelling Bee for EFL Teachers

Book Description
Publication Date: March 18, 2012
This book is for teachers of English Language Learners, ESL, EFL, & ELT. It is dedicated to the students in my EFL class, past, present, and future. I sincerely hope something within these pages will resonate within them and awaken the aspiration to become acquainted with words.

Words have power to do things.

Consequently, words are important in our lives, and we learn their spelling, their pronunciation, their definition, their part of speech, their collocations, their use in a sentence, their etymology, and above all, their friendship…

The Spelling Bee for EFL Teachers [Paperback]

Amazon Author Page: Thomas Jerome Baker




About profesorbaker

Thomas Baker is the Past-President of TESOL Chile (2010-2011). He enjoys writing about a wide variety of topics. The source and inspiration for his writing comes from his family.
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