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How to Prepare for English Spelling Bee?

How to Prepare for English Spelling Bee?

How to prepare for English spelling Bee?

Every year in the United States of America, the Scripps National Spelling Bee is a much-anticipated event where hundreds of young talented minds compete to get their spellings right. Numerous schools around the world also conduct Spelling Bee contests. If you think of it, it is only in English that you have so many spelling Bee contests – and that is precisely because English is a language that is notorious for having difficult spellings. Here are some tips from experts and past winners to help you win your Spelling Bees, from your local elementary or middle school to the international level.

1. Get that word list

Scripps Spelling Bee list is a comprehensive word list that any aspirant has to look for, to begin with. However, for your first grader, don’t aim so high. A beginners’ toolkit starting from kindergarten, first grade and second grade wordlists will do fine to start with. Master each level before moving to the next.

 2. Enlist the help of a dictionary

The official dictionary used by the Scripps National Spelling Bee Association is the Merriam Webster Unabridged, Eleventh Edition dictionary. So this is an unavoidable item in the arsenal of a Spelling Bee warrior. It is a good idea to tackle two or three pages of the dictionary at a time, memorizing official pronunciations. You could also visit the Merriam Webster website.

3. Learn root words

Many English words have Latin or Greek roots. Etymology (the field of study which deals with the origin of words) is very important in the preparation for Spelling Bee competitions. . It is the investigation of word histories. A good speller needs to know the origin of words. A huge chunk of English words have their origin in Latin, Greek, French, German and Asian languages. For example, the word ‘smaragdine’ (pronounced: smuh-rag-din) means ‘having the colour of emeralds’. This English word comes from the Latin word ‘smaragdus’ meaning ‘emerald.’

4. Master some techniques

(a) Breaking into Syllables

Long words in English are typically multi syllabic words. They have more than two or three syllables forming the words. Imagine that you are asked to spell “INCOMPREHENSIBILITY.” A pretty long word, right? The smart move is to break it down into its syllables IN-COM-PRE-HEN-SI-BIL-I-TY.

(b) Identifying Prefix and Suffix

Many of the longer words in English contain prefixes and suffixes. For example, in the word ‘INDEPENDENCE’, ‘IN’ is the prefix and ‘ENCE’ is the suffix while ‘DEPEND’ is the root word.

(c) Make a List of the Unorthodox Spellings

English is a language that sometimes appears to have no rhyme or reason to its spellings. There are words that do not seem to follow any kind of pattern. These words might have their origin in other languages like Spanish, French, German etc. For example, rendezvous, Colonel, Euouae, Liaison, Playwright, Lieutenant, knead, debris etc. do not follow any spelling rule. They just have to be memorized.

5. Build up your own word list by referencing

Spellingbee.com gives all that one would want to know about the Spelling Bee, including guidelines for parents and teachers, as well as tips for a successful participation.

Here is a list of other great resources to get your difficult words and prepare for the contest.

(1) Misspelled Words from 2019 Scripps National Spelling Bee

The chance of repetition of a word to be asked is very low, but you will get an idea of the kind of words that are likely to be misspelt. A list of all the words misspelt in the 2019 Scripps National Spelling Bee was published by the Time magazine.

(2) Hexco Top 100 Hardest Words to Spell

Hexco has developed a list of dauntingly hard words for a Spelling Bee aspirant. ‘Chiaroscurist’,  ‘Eichhornia’, ‘ kierkegaardian’ and so on are the kind of words they have.

(3) Spelling Bee Handbook

The Spelling Bee Handbook by Macmillan Publishers is a resource material for teachers who would like to prepare their students for a Spelling Bee, ideas for teaching spelling and an exhaustive list of words to be learnt.

Why take all the trouble?

Do you wonder why children take all the trouble and appear for Spelling Bees? Apart from attractive prizes, a child would gain a strong command over the English language, a huge confidence boost, public speaking skills and overcoming stage fright, valuable practice is handling tremendous stress and pressure, and the character build-up that comes from devoting hour after hour of hard work to a single cause and persevering at it no matter what.

Spelling Bees are definitely worth it.

Homeschooling in COVID-19 Times

Homeschooling

Home schooling: What, why and how.

Can home become a school? Some parents would say, ‘yes’. Homeschooling is a concept that is increasingly being talked about recently because of the current COVID-19 pandemic that has forced both parents and children to be at home, away from work and school. It would be natural for the parent to wonder about homeschooling at least temporarily in these times.

What is homeschooling?

Homeschooling is, simply put, schooling at home. Parents educate their children at home instead of sending them to school. The curriculum and methods of teaching are chosen by the parents, but the children are taught at their own pace, unfettered by the demands of a standardized curriculum or assessment. Some parents let their homeschooled children take standardized tests at specific points in learning. Some other parents wait till the child is at high school. At that point, they might want to be assessed by an internationally accepted Boards of Examinations such as the Cambridge International Examinations (CIE),  to show grades on college applications.

Why home schooling?

Parents choose homeschooling for a number of reasons. They may not be happy with the school settings available in their area, or with the traditional school system itself. Some other parents might want to follow an unusual or unconventional educational philosophy. In some cases, the child may have special needs, being extremely bright or otherwise, and may not be able to be accommodated in the typical classroom. Then there are parents who are passionate about education, and are well-qualified to teach any subject at school level. If such parents have enough money to spend on teaching material and plenty of time at their disposal, they will think of home schooling as a better option than traditional schooling.

How does homeschooling work?

Many parents who opt for home schooling tweak the standard curriculum to suit their children’s needs. The key is flexibility. The timing of the lesson and the pace at which a certain lesson proceeds is entirely up to the parents. They do not have to stick to a typical school academic calendar. Flexible teaching also means that when there is more than one child being homeschooled, the same topic may be taught but at different difficulty levels. There are plenty of resources available for home schooling including animated stories for young children.

Benefits of home schooling

There is no doubt that home schooling will strengthen the bond between parents and children.  There are endless possibilities for creativity, imagination and innovation for the parent, to teach a particular topic in a fun and interesting way. Education can be made more meaningful for a homeschooled child, with hands-on activities tailor-made for the child. In the 21st century, there is no dearth of learning resources if one is connected to the internet. Moreover, there are no constraints on a homeschooled child to learn a particular topic by a fixed deadline, so learning can proceed at his pace. Besides, even in a large family, a child will get more attention than he would ever get in a school classroom.  Home schooling also shelters children from bullying, drugs and other negative behaviors that they may be subject to, or pick up at school.

Disadvantages of home schooling

Home schooling, evidently, is not for all parents. It takes a tremendous amount of patience and perseverance for a parent to homeschool her children. Typically, children become restless and misbehave in a home setting with parents, more often than they would in a formal school setting. Besides, one should have the necessary resources, such as large amounts of money to spend on learning materials, and plenty of time to spend with the children. Also, very few parents know about the different teaching methodologies that only a trained teacher will know. Another oft-mentioned disadvantage of homeschooling is that homeschooled children do not have the opportunities for socialization with their peers that school-educated children have. Also, it benefits children to be used to the discipline that a school provides, not only in social behaviour, but also in personal routines such as a fixed time for learning.

Is home-schooling the future of education?

Some experts argue that with many adults working from home nowadays, children not leaving their home for school will become the norm in the future, at least partly. In the age of even robot teachers, it does not make sense to travel to a particular building every day and learn stuff that one can access freely on the internet anyway and have a parent to guide at home. However, there is also the opposing view that the human connection between teachers and students is too precious to get rid of.

Top Aesop Stories Every Kid Should Read

Aesop's Fables

Aesop’s Fables have been a traditionally popular collection of simple stories that convey moral values, supposedly written by Aesop, a slave and storyteller in ancient Greece between 620 and 564 BCE. Even in the modern era, the stories do not lose their appeal as their messages are timeless. Here is a top pick of stories that are sure to enthrall your toddlers.

1. The Lion & the Mouse

This is the story of a lion that was disturbed by a mouse. Angered, the lion threatened to kill the mouse, but the mouse said that if he was released he would repay the lion one day. Amused, the lion freed him. One day, the lion was caught in a hunter’s net, and the mouse rescued him by chewing on the net and opening it.

The moral, of course, is that good deeds will always be rewarded.

2. The Fox & the Grapes

One day a fox saw a bunch of juicy grapes. He was badly tempted to get them. He jumped multiple times, with all his might, but the grapes were simply out of his reach. Finally, giving up, the fox said scornfully, “Why am I trying so hard to get them? They are so sour.”

The moral is that people belittle that which is unattainable for them.

3. The ant and the dove

Once a dove saw an ant fall into a stream. The ant was struggling and was sure to drown. The dove took pity on the ant, and dropped a blade of grass next to him. Clinging to the blade of grass, the ant floated safely to the bank of the stream. Soon after, the dove was spotted by a hunter. Just as the hunter took aim with his gun, the ant stung him on his feet. Yelping in pain, the hunter missed his aim, and the dove flew safely away.

The moral is that kindness is always rewarded in one way or the other.

4. The thirsty crow

It was very dry season, and all the wells and streams dried up. Birds began to die, having no water to drink. A thirsty crow, searching for water, found a pitcher with very little water in it. However, because of the tall pitcher’s narrow neck, the crow could not reach the water. Then an idea occurred to him. He picked some pebbles and dropped into the pitcher one by one. Slowly but surely, the water level in the pitcher came up, and the crow could drink his fill.

The moral of the story is that one should use his wits in dire situations.

5. Who will bell the cat?

One day, all the mice got together and discussed a very serious matter that endangered their lives every single moment of their lives. There was a cat in the vicinity that threatened to catch them any moment. The mice wanted to find a solution to the problem. They thought that if there was some way of knowing that the cat was coming, they could simply run away. A young mouse suggested the idea that a bell should be hung around the cat’s neck. As the cat moved, the bell would surely ring, and the mice could run away. All the mice thought it was a great idea. Then an old mouse stood up and said, “The idea is very good, but who will bell the cat?”

The moral of the story is that it is easy to suggest great ideas, but implementing them is not so easy.

6. The oak and the reeds

A giant oak stood near a shallow stream in which a host of reeds grew. When the wind blew, the oak stood tall and strong, but the reeds bent low. The mighty oak said scornfully, “I pity you. You have to bow to the slightest breeze while I can stand strong in mighty winds.” The reeds knew better. They said, “We bow low so that we will not break. You who cannot bow, are easy to break if a strong wind blows.” Sure enough, a great hurricane blew, and the oak fell at once, torn by the roots.

 The moral of the story is that it is wise to yield when it is folly to resist.

7. The dog and his reflection

A dog was rushing home with a bone that he had been given by a butcher. On the way home, he had to cross a narrow brook. As the dog looked down from the bridge at the water, he saw his reflection. However, the foolish dog thought that it was another dog with a bone. Greedy to get one more bone, the dog barked loudly and jumped into the water. Having lost his own bone, and finding no dog in the water, the foolish dog somehow managed to swim to the shore.

The moral of the story is that greed makes one foolish.

Learning English In The Digital Era

‘Digital era’ is the moniker given to the fast-paced, tech-hungry milieu in which the human race finds itself at the moment.  It began towards the end of the 20th century, by about 1970, and is very much running full steam ahead. As with all avenues of human enterprise, the learning of English is influenced radically by this tech revolution.

Learning English: Computer assisted language learning

First created in 1960, software programs for language learning acquired popularity swiftly. A further improvement on these was the artificial intelligence programmes and computer games designed for language learning, in 1976 and 1988 respectively. These technological innovations mainly targeted receptive skills, i.e., listening and reading via audio and video lessons. These are highly user-friendly and widely popular.

Learning English: The internet

There are entire websites devoted to English teaching and learning, and they are highly popular with adult English learners. There are also websites that cater to children. They provide free content that are of interest to children, which often include English language teaching and learning. The content includes English language lessons divided into stages, with activities designed for each stage. For a parent looking for language learning material on the web, such websites are a godsend.

Learning English: Language learning apps

Language learning apps such as Duolingo are remarkable for their ease of use and creative methods of teaching. It is excellent for kids without a long attention span, since one needs to spend a mere 20 minutes a day to learn fluent English in a short time. There are also apps that builds one’s vocabulary, using spaced periodic recall techniques. Buuu is a language learning app that gives the learner opportunities to speak with native users of English. Babbel and Rosetta Stone are other apps that are very effective in English teaching, especially for non-native speakers of English.

Learning English: Short stories

Short stories? In the digital age? As surprising as it may sound, the effectiveness of short stories with simple plots and a limited number of characters for teaching a language is indisputable. This is especially true with children, as there is no child who dislikes a properly told story. This is one area of language learning where there is an endless demand for fairy tales and fables of the old, such as Aesop’s fables. These stories teach language in context, with the result that grammar and vocabulary are acquired by the learner indirectly rather than directly. This takes away the boredom and tediousness associated with direct learning of grammar and vocabulary. A bonus is the learning of values through such stories of course.

Learning English: e-Books

If there is a tried and tested recipe for English learning, that is reading. And what is the most popular mode of reading in the digital era? E-books of course. You would be surprised at the number of free e-books available out there that entertains and educates at the same time. In fact, as the world is moving into a paperless era, e-books are assuming great significance indeed. A wide variety of e-books are available on the web, and you can read any of them on the go. With iPad/tablets and e-readers like the Kindle, reading has become more interactive. They provide functions never before seen such as ‘click-to-define’. You can download whole texts at the touch of a button.

Learning English: The word processor

The unassuming word processor with its simple tools such as dictionary and thesaurus is an immense help to beginning learners of English, to correct their errors as they write and to find better words to express their ideas in a more apt way. The simple Microsoft Word is actually a godsend for many a student who are not so sure of their tenses and spelling.

Learning English: Online lessons

With Skype and FaceTime becoming more and more popular, there is a booming industry out there made up of online English lessons that involves distance teaching and learning of English. A native speaker can teach English to anyone around the world, using these tools. Videoconferencing in particular allows teachers to interact with many learners at the same time. Moreover, apps such as CoffeeStrap and HelloTalk lets you talk to native speakers and learn from them, right from your phone.

Need we say more? English learning in the digital era is a multi-sensory and multi-media experience, and, most remarkable, it is available for anyone with access to basic information and communication technology. English language has never had it this good!

Top Techniques to Teach English Reading

Boy Reading Book

English teachers use a variety of tried and tested methods to teach reading.  Here are some of the top techniques that are used to teach learners, no matter young or old.

1. The Alphabet Method

This is an age-old method dating back to the days of Ancient Greece and Rome. In this method, the emphasis is on learning the names of the letters of the alphabet in the sequential order: A, B, C, D and so on. Pupils are then made to memorize words as consisting of these ‘named’ letters. There are often songs that are taught to preschoolers so that they will memorize the letters of the alphabet. Though it centers on rote learning, this method is still favored in some preschools since plenty of print material is available to teach reading this way.

2. The Phonic or Syllabic Method

This method is considered to be an improvement on the alphabet method. Here, the emphasis is not on the name of the letters but on the sounds each of them represents. Students learn to read words by stringing together the sounds of the letters. Since the English language has many words that are not pronounced as they are written, students are taught exceptions too, as ‘tricky words’. A very popular and highly developed version of the phonics method is the Jolly Phonics, which is used in many preschools around the world.

3. Reading using Contextual Clues

With very young children, it is possible to use a mixture of words and pictures to teach reading. For example, on a flash card, the teacher can show the word ‘apple’ and then point to an apple. The advantage of this method is that it works well for visual learners. Moreover, it helps young learners to read a word and understand its meaning at the same time. The disadvantage of this method is that it can be used to teach only a limited number of words, mainly the names of things, fruits, and vegetables and so on.

3. The Whole Word Method

In this method, the learner is taught to read each word as a word-picture, without attention to individual letters. This helps him to avoid incorrect spelling as the pronunciation of a word is leant as one single item, and not as a combination of the sounds of the letters. The popular ‘Look-and –Say’ method of teaching reading at the beginning stages is based on this method. In Look-and-Say, pupils look at the words flashed before them and say the words as quickly as possible before the flash cards are taken away. Reading complete words is an automatic process and is often called sight-reading. The words thus leant are high frequency words in English. One very commonly used list of such words is the Dolch sight words list, which is a set of words that make up almost 75% of the basic vocabulary found in children’s books.

4. The Sentence Method.

In the sentence method, whole sentences are taught to students as meaningful units in specific contexts. For example, ‘Please stand up’ can be taught as it is, without breaking down to individual words, if the students are all sitting down and the teacher gives the command orally and shows the sentence on a flashcard at the same time. This method depends a lot on the ingenuity of the teacher to be effective.

5. The Story Method

A lot of adults may remember the ‘Peter and Jane’ books that they were required to read in preschool. Indeed, the role of short and simple stories in the teaching of reading cannot be underestimated. This method takes advantage of the fact that children generally love stories.

6. The Language Experience Method

The language experience method makes use of the fact that each child’s life experiences are unique and there are certain words and contexts that he is familiar with. The teacher or caregiver makes use of the words the child already knows and teaches him to identify it when written. At the next stage, teachers and parents can create stories out of the child’s preferred words complete with drawings of the characters in the story. This method is popular with a lot of parents who are able to give individual attention to their children.

7. Read together everyday

Be it in the classroom or at home, having an adult read to the child is an invaluable strategy to teach reading. There are plenty of books that facilitate parent-child reading sessions. Apart from teaching reading, such sessions serve as opportunities for emotional bonding between the parents and children.

Top Ten Ways to Teach English Spelling

Teach English Spelling

Let us admit it. English spelling can be crazy and a pain in the neck. Some of the words you find in the Spelling Bee competitions are just mind boggling. In English Many words are not written the way they are pronounced, and the same sound can be produced by multiple spellings. However, fret not. Here are some tried and tested methods of teaching spelling.

1. Copying

This time-honored device for teaching spelling is based on the principle of strengthening the kinesthetic memory through repeated transcription of a word. Pupils may engage in this without any conscious attention to the task.  This is one of the oldest methods, nowadays not widely practiced, though some teachers may find a use for it in some situations.

2. Delayed Copying

In this technique, words on flashcards are shown to the pupils for a very short time. Pupils look at the spelling and write out the word as soon as the card is withdrawn.

3. Dictation

Another tried and tested device for teaching spelling is the dictation.  Typically, the teacher gives a set of words beforehand to the students for them to learn, and tests them by dictation on an assigned day. One advantage of this is that students get used to the pronunciation of the word, as they have to listen carefully to the teacher, thus linking sound with spelling.

4. Use of Mnemonics

Mnemonics are devices that help us to remember something. For example, pupils can remember difficult spellings by memorizing short and interesting formulas that highlight the troublesome part of the word. Pupils can themselves construct their own formulas to meet their individual requirements. The following examples illustrate this well:

a) permanent – the MANE is a perMANEnt part of the lion.

b) obedient – He would rather DIE than be obedient.

c) existence: the school has been in exisTENce for TEN years.

5. Rules

Though English spelling cannot be easily reduced to simple rules, there are a few which are fairly consistent and useful.  A few of the spelling rules are given below.

a) A mono-syllabic word (words with only one syllable) ending in a consonant will double the consonant when ‘ing’, ‘er’, ‘est’ or ‘ed’ is added to it. For example, hit + ing = hitting.

b) Words ending in a single ‘e’ will drop the ‘e’ when an ‘ing’ is added. For example, move+ing = moving.

c) Nouns ending in ss, sh, ch, x, or o preceded by a consonant take es to form their plurals; e.g. kisses, bushes, foxes etc.

d) Words ending in l after a single vowel double the l before a suffix beginning with a vowel. For example, travel + ing = travelling.

6. Word Study

Analysis of words by breaking them down into their components (base, prefix, suffix) etc. is also found useful. For example, in the word ‘uncomfortableun is the prefix, comfort is the base and able is the suffix.

7. Spelling Games

Spelling games like the following can easily be played in the class:

a) The few problem words are written on a card which is shown to the pupils for a short time. The card is then withdrawn and pupils write from memory as many of the words as they can. The card is again shown and they check the spellings of the words they have written and correct them, if necessary. The pupil who has written the highest number of words correctly wins.

b) The class is divided into two or three teams. The teacher writes on the blackboard two or three (corresponding to the number of teams) identical columns of words, the number of words in each column being equal to the number of pupils in each team. Each word in the columns has one or more letters missing, usually at the trouble spot. When the teacher gives the word ‘Go’, pupils from the teams come to the board one by one and each pupil completes one word in the column assigned to his team. The first team to complete all the words in the column is the winner.

8. Phonics

Phonics is the modern way to teach reading, and writing. In phonics, students learn the sounds of letters first, before they learn their names. Therefore, for a student who has learnt the sound of s and the letter name, the next logical step is to write the letter when she hears the sound. For example, when the teachers breaks up the sounds of dog, into d, o, and g, students should be able to formulate the word, just by means of knowing the sounds.

The Teaching Profession : A Survival Kit

Teaching Profession - A Survival Kit for Teachers

Teaching is a profession fit for the gods. In what other profession is a person entrusted with hundreds of impressionable, gullible and vulnerable young minds and expected to make good human beings and citizens of the world out of them? Continue reading The Teaching Profession : A Survival Kit

Tools to Help You Increase Your Productivity in Academic Writing

Academic Writing Tools

Are you a brilliant writer? Well, it does not matter what your answer was because you will have to put together that paper if you want a fighting chance at academic excellence. Most instructors do not care if you like the process or not, if you are skilled and experienced enough to put together a decent paper or not, or how many sleepless nights you will spend putting together the perfect essay. But that’s not their fault; they follow the curriculum that says you have to know all that stuff. All you can do now is accept your fate and try as hard as you can to stay afloat, and we’re here to help do just that.

This is the modern society of the 21st century; to succeed, you need to act like you are living during one. This means that whenever you have trouble writing, proofreading, or editing your academic assignments, you need to use a more modern approach by using helpful software.

Whether you are putting together an essay, article, blog, research paper, thesis, or dissertation, it is always essential to pick the most appropriate tool to ease your work. The choice of the writing software you best prefer comes down to your taste. Everyday students voluntarily reach in their pockets and shed a few dollars to buy a high-end writing tool such as Microsoft Word. Some tech-savvies are open to open source projects such as open office, while researchers want to become more adventurous with a type-setting system such as Latex for their occasional writing.

Most Popular Tools Used for Academic Writing

Referencing or Citation Software

This tool is quite handy when one wants to format or organize references so that they can be easily be incorporated into essays, dissertations, research papers, among others. There are quite many terms that can be used to refer to search tools, including referencing tools, referencing software, research paper organizer, paper software, citation app, citation tool, to mention a few. All these refer to an online tool or software that allows the user to format and store references. You must choose a proper tool and stick to it. Some of the most popular tools and software include:

  • Mendeley
  • Zotero
  • RefWorks
  • EndNote
  • Docear
  • Citavi
  • JabRef

Research Tools and Software

If you are ever researching your academic paper, it is essential to use appropriate tools and methods to conduct proper research. If you are not a native English speaker, then you will probably need a research software or tool to help you with your research. If the research you are carrying out involves forms of data analysis, then you will need a statistical tool for your research. If you need to collaborate with your peers in your research arena and find out what they are up to, you can use tools such as ResearchGate and Google Scholar. You will also need a good plagiarism checker to avoid specific penalties of misconduct. Some of these tools and software include:

  • Google Scholar
  • ResearchGate
  • Copyscape
  • Project Management Tools
  • Grammar checker and coherence checker tools

When putting together your academic paper, it is quite essential to ensure that your paper does not have ant grammatical errors, typos, and poorly structured sentences. Your work will be ill-judged if it contains these errors even though it contains good content. For students who are not native English speakers, it can be formulating grammatically correct sentences and mastering of English vocabulary. Some of the tools that can be used include:

  • MS Word Spelling & Grammar checker
  • Grammarly
  • ProWritingAid
  • CorrectEnglish
  • StyleWriter
  • WhiteSmoke
  • Ginger Software
  • Write my paper

Finding a professional to help you finish your academic assignment is the dream of every student and will always be a benefit. This tool is handy because there are many writing services out there, offering high-quality services to students at every academic level at relatively low prices. You can find a professional with a Ph.D. in your field of study. These services provide you with assistance throughout the entire process of research and actual writing. Top-rated custom writing services like ours is one of the smartest choices one could make. Use academic writing services to research, write, and edit any of your academic assignments.

Writing Your Academic Papers Has Never Been Easier

Writing academic papers is not as easy as it seems. Any student in college or university who has tried putting together one will nod in agreement. Even those who are gifted with the art of writing will often find themselves stuck at some point in their academic life. This task becomes more complex as you go higher in your education, and research becomes more complicated. Mastering the art of academic writing and research can take years.

We understand that the endless assignments piled on students’ shoulders are overwhelming. But with these tools at your disposal, putting together your academic assignments has just gotten way more straightforward. Take advantage of these fantastic tools and change your grades for the better today!