Have You Ever Participated in a Spelling Bee?

We overheard an amusing conversation between a flower and a bee the other day in the Wonderopolis garden:

Flower: Hey bee! Go away!

Bee: No!

Flower: I said go away! You’re annoying me!

Bee: No way!

Flower: Can’t you talk? Why do you keep spelling everything?

Bee: Bee…cause…I’m a spelling bee!

Flower: *groan*

If you’ve ever taken part in a spelling bee, you already know that they have nothing to do with the flying insects we call bees. Instead, they are competitions that involve participants spelling words against each other to see who can spell the most correctly.

No one knows for certain where the term “bee” originated from, but some linguists believe it may have come from the Old English word for “prayer.” The word “bee” has been used to describe any kind of gathering for a specific purpose.

For instance, a quilting bee is a gathering for the purpose of quilting. Similarly, a spelling bee is a gathering for the purpose of spelling!

Historians believe spelling contests began with Noah Webster’s spelling books, commonly known as “The Blue-backed Speller.” These books, first published in 1786, were an important part of elementary school education for over 50 years.

The United States National Spelling Bee was initiated by The Courier-Journal, a newspaper in Louisville, Kentucky. It was held for the first time in Washington, D.C., in 1925. The winner, Frank Neuhauser, had the opportunity to meet President Calvin Coolidge.

Today, spelling bees are often held annually in local schools all across the country. Local champions may then compete in district-wide competitions. Eventually, winners compete on a city, county, and state level until a few select winners advance to the national competition.

The National Spelling Bee has gained significant popularity in recent years. How popular? So popular that you can now watch the National Spelling Bee on television on ESPN! The next time your teacher asks for volunteers for the school spelling bee, raise your hand and get involved. You never know when you might be the next champion and see yourself live on television!

Give It a Try

It’s time to be all you can be! Gather a few friends or family members and try out one or more of the following activities:

  • Do you think you’re a great speller? Show it! Ask a friend or family member to join you in an enjoyable online Spelling Bee game. Keep track of any words you get wrong. You can compile those words into a vocabulary list that will help you improve your spelling in the future!
  • Do you have what it takes to win the National Spelling Bee? Test yourself! Take a look at Champions and Their Winning Words to find a list of previous National Spelling Bee Champions and the words they spelled correctly to claim the title. How many of those words can you spell correctly? Have a friend or family member quiz you!
  • Ready to have your very own spelling bee at home? It’s simple! Gather a few friends or family members and prepare to spell. Need words? No worries! Wonderopolis has plenty of them. For a fun game, randomly select a few Wonders of the Day and use the “Wonder words to know and use” section as your spelling bee word list. If you need even more difficult words, grab a dictionary or use an online one. Enjoy discovering new words!

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