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Students gearing up for county’s annual spelling bee event

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Some students diligently spend hours after dinner repeating words.

Others slog through spelling words during any spare minute. Mom and Dad quiz them on words after school. Teachers are giving tips on how to get through the spelling bee.

One student watched a movie to help prepare for the pressures of a spelling bee.

The annual Johnson County Spelling Bee is Tuesday, and 18 of the county’s top spellers in Grades 3 through 5 are preparing to spell words such as “extemporary” and “foundling” at Creekside Elementary School.

A trophy and the chance to compete at the next level are at stake.

The main strategy to earn spelling glory: study.

“You don’t want to go in, and they ask you a hard word, and you don’t know it,” said Carly Cravens, a fourth-grader at Whiteland Elementary School. “I try to keep calm and not freak out about it or let me get nervous.”

Staying calm is a tip Linda Greenwell, an organizer of the bee, gives to preparing students.

Slowing down and repeating the word is also a strategy, she said.

The winner won’t be who can spell the words fastest but will be the student who has spelled all the words correctly, she said.

Picturing the word is a strategy Alexis Welch used to win her school spelling bee.

When the Custer Baker Intermediate School fifth-grader was given a word, she spelled the word in her head, breaking each word down by syllables.

She has been in some type of spelling bee since kindergarten, but ramped up her studying to win her school bee and advance to the county finals.

“This year, I realized that I wanted to move on to the Johnson County one,” she said. “I (studied) really hard.”

Every speller had to win a spelling bee to earn a spot in the finals.

Studying is the best way to advance and do well in the finals, students said.

Kalista Lantrip, 8, who is representing home-schooled students, watched the movie, “Akeelah and the Bee,” a movie about a young girl in a spelling bee, to help her prepare, she said.

While she has been spending about an hour a day writing down words and studying them, the movie gave her a tip to use during the competition, she said.

If Lantrip doesn’t know a word, she plans on asking for a definition and for the word to be repeated, which is also a tip Greenwell is giving spellers.

While studying can give the spellers confidence and prepare them, luck plays a role, too.

A speller can study 1,000 hours and get the one word that will put them out of the contest.

Greenwell suggests mastering the beginning book first and then moving on to intermediate words.

In past spelling bees, words weren’t taken only from the beginning list, organizers have said.

Cravens recognizes that studying spelling will help her in other subjects, she said.

“It’s fun to be able to show people that you know a lot and are smart.”

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